Andy Murray struggles through Dubai opener

 

Andy Murray was given a tough
examination in his first match since losing to Novak Djokovic in the
Australian Open semi-finals before prevailing 6-3 4-6 6-4 against German
qualifier Michael Berrer in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free
Tennis Championships.

In each of the last two years Murray has struggled for form following the Australian Open and he looked shaky again here, allowing the world number 116 back into the match having been a set and a break up in the second.

Murray failed to win a match until April after his 2011 Melbourne final defeat to Djokovic and was unable to go past the quarter-finals of any tournament in 2010 until Wimbledon after losing to Federer in that year's Australian Open final.

He is hoping to bounce back more quickly this time and at least survived the opening test against a feisty and fresh-looking opponent following his own four-week lay-off.

The world number four looked rusty in the opening game and the powerful Berrer was moving his opponent around the court, claiming a break at the fourth attempt.

Murray broke back immediately, sealing it with a superb lob, but survived another scare in the fifth game, saving two break points as first Berrer failed to return an accurate first serve and then the 31-year-old tried a drop shot without factoring in Murray's lightning pace across the ground, the third seed easily chasing it down and firing a winner before going on to hold.

Murray made the crucial breakthrough by puncturing the Berrer serve again to move 4-2 up and closed out the set 6-3.

The second set went with serve up to the fifth game where a long backhand by Berrer handed Murray three break points. He seized on the second of them with a fiercely-struck forehand winner but there was no let-up from the Stuttgart-based player, who broke back straight away with a forehand which Murray could only volley weakly into the net.

A Berrer forehand into the net after good defensive work from Murray set up a break chance in the seventh game but the German responded with a stunning backhand cross-court which seemed to briefly knock the stuffing out of his opponent.

Berrer held to move 4-3 up and then led 15-40 on the Murray serve, before four accurate serves in a row enabled the Scot to hold.

Murray stepped in on Berrer's serve to put away a return and force a break chance in the ninth, but again Berrer recovered to hold and levelled the match at one set apiece when his chipped return into the corner of the court was slammed into the net.

The response from Murray was good as he broke in the opening game of the decider but Berrer hit back in game two as Murray's backhand volley found the net rather than the open court.

A long forehand gave Murray another break but he again failed to consolidate and Berrer levelled once more as the Murray serve faltered badly.

Berrer became the first player to hold in the fifth game and Murray fought hard to do likewise, but the vital break came in the ninth game as Berrer miscued a forehand and Murray was able to serve it out.

PA

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