Andy Murray returned to competition exactly one month after his Wimbledon triumph, and remains unbeaten since beginning his comeback following the back injury which kept him out of the French Open. A 6-4, 7-6 victory over Marcel Granollers took the Scot into the last 16 of the Montreal Masters as he began the build-up to the defence of his US Open title later this month.
The presence of Granollers on the other side of the net was a reminder of how much Murray has achieved since he was forced to retire against the Spaniard in Rome just three months ago with the back problem that kept him out of Roland Garros. Having returned for the grass-court season, Murray won the Queen's Club and Wimbledon titles and is now on a 13-match unbeaten run.
This, nevertheless, was a patchy performance, which was no surprise given the time that Murray has been away from the court. The world No 2 struggled to find his timing in the warm and windy conditions. "It was OK," Murray said afterwards when asked for his verdict on the match. "It was tricky. It's extremely windy here just now and the balls are very quick and hard to control. I felt like the balls were flying around a bit."
Murray certainly lacked the match sharpness of his opponent, who has played every week since Wimbledon and five days ago became the sixth Spaniard to win a tournament this year when he claimed the fourth title of his career in Kitzbühel. Granollers, the world No 36 in singles and world No 5 in doubles, recorded a fine straight-sets victory over Grigor Dimitrov in the first round and surprised Murray on several occasions with his bold forays to the net and smart volleys.
Nevertheless, it was Murray who drew first blood, breaking serve in the third game when Granollers put a lob wide after the Scot had chased down a drop shot. When Murray broke again to lead 4-1 it seemed that he was coasting, but Granollers responded with a break of his own and grew in confidence despite losing the first set in 47 minutes.
The Spaniard made an early break in the second set and went 5-2 ahead, but Murray upped his game when he had to. The Scot, who has won the Canadian title on two previous occasions, saved a set point with a big forehand when Granollers served at 5-3, created break point with a winning forehand pass and converted it with another forehand winner.
Granollers started the tie-break well, going 2-0 up after a fine drop shot and a netted Murray forehand, but from that moment the Scot played superbly. At 5-2 up Murray hit a stunning backhand cross-court pass to set up match point, which he converted immediately when Granollers put a forehand in the net.
Having secured victory by winning seven points in a row, Murray now plays Ernests Gulbis in the third round. Murray has won all five of his previous matches against the big-hitting Latvian, who beat Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. "He's a very tough player," Murray said. "He's very talented. He's caused a lot of the top players problems in the past."
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic also played their first matches since Wimbledon and enjoyed emphatic victories. Nadal beat Canada's Jesse Levine 6-2, 6-0, while Djokovic began his attempt to win this title for the third year in a row with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Germany's Florian Mayer.
After his win Djokovic expressed support for his fellow Serb Viktor Troicki, who has been banned for 18 months after failing to provide a blood sample to drugs testers earlier this year. Djokovic said that Troicki, who has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, was "definitely innocent".
Venus returns from injury to Flipkens loss
Venus Williams lost her first match since the French Open when she was beaten 0-6, 6-4, 6-2 by Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens in Toronto. The five-time Wimbledon champion, who has been troubled by a back injury, is determined to find some form before the US Open, but acknowledged that she was badly short of match practice. "Coming back from injury, you have to build the confidence to just realise that you can come back and play without pain," she said.
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