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Andy Murray defeats Mo Ye Cong in Zhuhai opener

Andy Murray defeats Mo Ye Cong in Zhuhai opener

Andy Murray progresses to the second round of the Zhuhai Tennis Championships by beating world number 668 Mo Ye Cong 7-5 6-3.

Andy Murray marked his return to Chinese soil with a straight sets win over wildcard Mo Ye Cong in the first round of the Zhuhai Championships on Thursday.

Fresh from helping Great Britain reach the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup, the former world number one triumphed 7-5 6-3 with just over 100 minutes on the clock.

Murray is out to win his sixth ATP Tour singles title on Chinese territory, having triumphed three times at the Shanghai Masters in 2010, 2011 and 2016, while also reaching the final in 2012.

In addition, the 36-year-old won the 2014 Shenzen Open and 2016 China Open, but he had not competed at the Zhuhai Championships since the maiden edition 2019, when he lost to eventual winner Alex de Minaur in the second round.

That year, the three-time Grand Slam winner was still on the road to recovery from his second hip operation, and he admitted that the sweltering conditions took a toll on him this time around too.

“The conditions are very humid and he played a solid level and pushed me while I was trying to adjust to the conditions. Once I managed to get ahead in the second set, I felt a little bit more comfortable,” the Briton said on the court.

Andy Murray reacts at the US Open on August 29, 2023© Reuters

Cong – who is ranked 668th in the world – was aiming to become the first-ever player to beat Murray on the ATP Tour while sitting outside the top 200, and he held his own for five service games during a solid start.

However, an unforced error in the 12th game brought up three set points for Murray, who broke the home favourite to love with his 14th winner of the day, but his advantage nearly vanished straight away.

Cong raced into a 40-0 lead in Murray’s opening service game in the second set, and while the Briton fought back immensely before saving a fourth break point to hold, he was starting to feel the effects of the unforgiving climate.

Murray was on the verge of losing his serve again in the third game, but he beat away a fifth break point for Cong before another break to love, which he backed up with a much more straightforward hold for a 4-1 lead.

Cong would force the 36-year-old to serve out the match, which he did with a third consecutive love hold, and Murray ended the contest with a mere eight unforced errors to his name.

The Briton’s second-round opponent will be Russia’s Aslan Karatsev, who beat Murray in the final of the 2022 Sydney International during their first tour-level encounter, and he could potentially face compatriot Cameron Norrie in the last eight as the second seed prepares to meet Australian qualifier Marc Polmans.

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