Andy Murray began his hard-court campaign with a workmanlike 6-4, 6-2 win over Frenchman Jérémy Chardy to ease into the third round of the Montreal Masters yesterday.
Playing his first competitive match since falling to Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon semi-finals, Murray struggled at times to find his rhythm after a five-week lay-off but the third seed never looked threatened by his French opponent as he launched his build-up to the US Open.
"The score looked easier than the match was, there were some chances for both of us," Murray said. "I retrieved well, tried to keep the ball low over the net and he made a few more errors than I did."
By the time Murray arrives at Flushing Meadows later this month for the year's final Grand Slam he could have replaced Rafael Nadal as No 2 in the world rankings.
With Nadal making his return from a two-month injury lay-off by testing his creaky knees on the Quebec hard courts, the 22-year-old Scot has been presented the opportunity to nudge him out of second spot.
A victory in Montreal would make Murray the highest ever ranked Briton, but he could also move up the list if he reaches the semi-finals and Nadal loses in the second or third round or if he advances into Sunday's final and the Spaniard goes no further than the semi-finals.
Murray came out all guns blazing, breaking Chardy to open the match and then holding serve to jump out to a 2-0 lead. But that would be the only break in a tight opening set.
The second set followed a similar pattern as Murray again broke Chardy at the first opportunity and held serve to nose in front 2-0. But with ominous storm clouds gathering over centre court, Murray moved quickly to end the match, breaking Chardy a final time to go up 5-2 and serve out for the win.
Earlier, the Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero, who had to qualify for the main draw, blitzed wild card Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-4 in a first-round battle of the former world No 1.
The former women's world No 1 Kim Clijsters surprised herself with her victorious comeback to the game in Cincinnati late on Monday night – but not her fellow players. After a two-year break in which time she married and gave birth to her first child, the Belgian beat world No 13 Marion Bartoli of France, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the second round of the Cincinnati Open.
"I didn't really have any expectations," Clijsters said. "I just wanted to go out there and play – I guess my mindset was a bit different. I think what I did well was even when my level was a little bit up and down, mentally I stayed focused. That's what I am really happy with."
Bartoli was stunned by the standard of play that Clijsters produced. "Two years without playing a match – it's pretty amazing the level she has already right now," she said. "I guess the level of play, yes, it's inside the top 10 already. I can tell you that. The way she was moving and hitting and her physical strength after two years without playing a match, it's just amazing."
Bartoli's feelings were echoed by Svetlana Kuznetsova. "I think she will do top 10 for sure," Kuznetsova said. "She seems exactly the same as she was before. I think it's great she comes back and I think tennis needed somebody like this. I am really excited. There are not many girls who really had a birth of a child and came back."Reuse content