Andy Murray smashes racket in China as peers barely break a sweat

Murray beat Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 6-7 6-4 6-2

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On a day when the world’s top two players eased back into competition with comfortable victories, Andy Murray again had to show all his fighting qualities.

While Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal dropped just seven games between them in their opening matches at the China Open in Beijing, Murray laboured for two and a half hours before beating Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 6-7, 6-4, 6-2.

Just 48 hours after a three-set marathon final against Tommy Robredo to win the Shenzhen Open, Murray made another spirited comeback as he continued his quest to qualify for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

“I would have rather lost the first set 6-1 than put all of that work in and not get a reward for it,” Murray said afterwards. “But I was really happy with the way I managed to fight through in the end.”

Given the quick turnaround after Shenzhen, where he played four matches in four days, it was no surprise that Murray made a slow start. He lost his first three service games and trailed 5-1 before taking the first set to a tie-break, in which he led 4-1 and had two set points. When Janowicz won it 11-9, Murray smashed his racket on the floor in frustration.

The second set was tight, but the turning point came at 4-4, when Janowicz dropped serve after an error-strewn game which included two double-faults. Murray quickly took control of the decider to earn a second-round meeting with Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.

Nadal, who has not played since Wimbledon because of a wrist injury, crushed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-0. The Spaniard looked in good shape but said his expectations both in Beijing and at next week’s Shanghai Masters were not high.

“I am less favoured this year than other years,” Nadal said. “The draws are very hard. Very difficult players. Every single round is so tough. Every victory is very important for me. Today, I don’t aspire to win tournaments here in Asia. I go day by day.”

Djokovic, making his first appearance since the US Open, took his record at the Beijing tournament to 20 wins from 20 matches when he beat Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 6-1. The Serb said he was as focused as ever, despite the fact that his wife is expecting their first child in a matter of weeks.

“Most of the players do feel a little bit exhausted [at this time of year],” Djokovic said. “But I’m fighting for No 1 of the world. This is already a huge motivation.”

In the women’s competition Serena Williams crushed Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 6-3, while her sister Venus won 6-4, 6-3 against France’s Caroline Garcia, who had beaten her at last week’s Wuhan Open. Maria Sharapova eased to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Elina Svitolina, but Eugenie Bouchard, runner-up in Wuhan, was beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Sabine Lisicki.

Ross Hutchins, who announced his retirement last month, has left his role as tournament director of the Aegon Championships to become vice-president of player relations at the Association of Tennis Professionals.