Andy Murray’s second match of the season was considerably different than his first. After double bageling an overmatched wildcard in his Doha opener on Monday, Murray, a 2-time tournament champion, let slip a set and 3-0 lead to Florian Mayer to fall 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the second round on Wednesday.
“I felt like I slowed down in the second set, service speed and movement,” said Murray. “It wasn’t a particular area that was sore. Just more joints rather than muscles, just a bit sore from changing direction and playing at that level.
“But I was playing well. I played some good tennis today. I moved well at the beginning of the match, so that was a positive, and I did say the only way to feel better is by playing matches. So today was a start.”
Recovering from back surgery, the reigning Wimbledon champion was playing his first official event since Davis Cup last September. Murray is not scheduled to play next week ahead of the Australian Open, but could play a exhibition match or two at Kooyang.
The German Mayer was even surprised at his comeback.
“To be honest, in my mind, the match was finished at 3-6, 0-3,” said Mayer. “I tried to play more aggressively, tried to risk something more. Of course for sure he didn’t play his best tennis.
“I knew before the match if I would have a chance, it’s probably today. He didn’t play for a long time. [So] I took my chance.”
Also in Doha, top seed and world No. 1 dropped a set but advanced over German Tobias Kamke 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.
“I spent a lot of time on court and I won,” he said. “That’s the very important thing. I think I played much better today than yesterday. The opponent played great; played very aggressive.”
Nadal now meets the entertaining Ernests Gulbis in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Rafa’s beaten the Latvian in all six prior meetings.
“He’s a player you don’t want to meet because he hits every ball very hard with a very strong serve, first and second serve,” Nadal said. “Then he hits every ball very, very, very fast from the baseline, forehand/backhand, so he’s a difficult player to play against.”
Nadal’s countryman David Ferrer however stumbled losing to Daniel Brands 6-4, 7-5. Another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, also crashed out losing to Victor Hanescu.
Down under in Brisbane Roger Federer made his 2014 debut with a resounding 6-4, 6-2 victory over Jarkko Nieminen.
The 32-year-old who was without new coach Stefan Edberg, is playing a pre-Australian Open event in Australia for the first time since 2000.
“Most important is that you win the match so you get a second chance to judge your game a bit better,” said Federer. “That’s why it’s most important to get an extra day or two. Now I have doubles tomorrow and the singles the next day, so it’s really good for rhythm and good for your game.
“I expect myself to play a bit better in the next match, even though today was already very good for a first match in so many weeks, to be honest, and against Nieminen who can play very good tennis. Particularly here in Australia.
“I just want to move on in the draw, because I would rather present myself four times out there than just one time and then it was a good show.”
Next for Federer in the quarterfinals is Australian Marinko Matosevic who beat Sam Querrey.
In women’s play in Brisbane, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova both advanced. Sharapova received a walkover from Ash Barty while 2-time Australian Open champion defeated Casey Dellacqua.
Sharapova returns today to face Kaia Kanepi. Top seed Serena Williams is also in action against Dominika Cibulkova.
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