Murray races through after sticky start

British No 1 makes returns to action for first time since Australia Open final

When Andy Murray took 32 minutes to win his first two games it seemed that the world No 4 might be in for a long opening day at the Barclays Dubai Championships here last night. To the Scot's relief, however, Russia's Igor Kunitsyn failed to build on his promising start and after another 69 minutes Murray had booked his place in the second round by winning 6-2, 6-3.

Murray, who now meets Andreas Seppi or Janko Tipsarevic, was playing his first match since losing to Roger Federer in the final of the Australian Open three weeks ago. Having spent 10 days resting after the year's first Grand Slam tournament, Murray says he has not come here with any great expectations.

Kunitsyn, the world No 111, failed to take two break points in the opening game, but that was nothing compared with what was to follow. The second featured 14 deuces and lasted nearly 25 minutes before Murray converted his ninth break point when Kunitsyn hit a forehand long.

Murray appeared to hurt his knee early in the game and frequently bent over in discomfort between points during it, but he soon started moving more freely and eventually took control. The Scot broke again at 5-2 to take the first set in 58 minutes.

Kunitsyn, who has slid down the rankings from a career-high position of No 35 last July after suffering shoulder problems, briefly raised hopes by breaking in the opening game of the second set, Murray serving a double-fault at 30-40. Murray broke back immediately, however, and did so again in the sixth game before serving out for victory.

Murray is seeded to meet Novak Djokovic in the final. It has been a quiet start to the year for the 22-year-old Serb, though the world No 2 is hoping to make a noise here this week. Djokovic has won 16 titles but has yet to make a successful defence of a crown. He hopes to do so here and got his campaign off to a decent start with a workmanlike first-round victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Djokovic, who beat the 26-year-old Spaniard 6-4, 6-4, did not play a warm-up event before last month's Australian Open, where he was knocked out by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals, and reached the semi-finals on his only other tournament appearance this year, losing to Mikhail Youzhny in Rotterdam earlier this month.

Given that he finished the 2009 season exhausted after playing 97 matches, more than anyone else on the men's tour, it is no surprise that Djokovic wants to pace himself this time around and he is ready for a busy period. Having played indoors in Rotterdam, Djokovic has switched to outdoors here, will play on an indoor clay court in the Davis Cup the weekend after next and then returns to outdoor hard courts for the Masters Series events in Indian Wells and Miami in March.

Although Djokovic made a slow start, Garcia-Lopez rarely looked capable of troubling the Serb for long. The world No 47, who needed treatment on his left knee midway through the second set, is more at home on clay and has now lost all five matches he has played this year. Djokovic now plays his fellow countryman, Viktor Troicki.

Meanwhile, the Association of Tennis Professionals has announced a five-and-a-half-year sponsorship deal with Corona Extra, a Mexican beer, believed to be worth around $70m (about £45.2m). The men's tennis tour has been looking for a major sponsor since its deal with Mercedes-Benz ended two years ago.

*Ana Ivanovic has appointed a new coach. Heinz Gunthardt, who used to work with Steffi Graf, will start his new job next week.

News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat