LONDON: Former world No. 1 Andy Murray defeated Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday at The Queen’s Club grass-court tournament, dispatching the Frenchman in 65 minutes for his first match victory in more than a year.
It was Murray's first grass-court match in three years and he felt right at home, converting all three break points and never facing one himself.
Murray hadn’t played on grass since Eastbourne in 2018. His last match was a March loss to No. 8 Andrey Rublev of Russia and his last match win came in the first round of the 2020 U.S. Open, where he came back from two sets down to narrowly defeat Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.
After beating Paire, the often-injured Murray, who has undergone two hip surgeries, had to pause to gain his composure before speaking.
“I love playing tennis,” he said, shaking his head as the crowd stood and cheered. “Sorry. Obviously, competing is why you put in all the hard work. The last few years I have not got to do that as much as I would have liked. Great that I'm out here and able to compete again.”
Murray was sidelined for much of the past two seasons and had not played on the ATP Tour since Rotterdam 14 weeks ago. He had won both of his previous meetings with Paire, including at Wimbledon in 2017.
The popular 34-year-old British star has won this tournament a record five times (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016). His victory coupled with ones by Daniel Evans, wild-card entry Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie marks the first time that four British singles players have won a match at Queen's since 2005, the year Murray made his debut. Tim Henman, Jamie Delgado and Greg Rusedski also won that year.
In other matches Tuesday, top-seeded Matteo Berrettini held off fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) in the Queen’s Club debut for both players; second-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada eked out a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6) win over qualifier Aleksandar Vukic of Australia; British No. 1 Daniel Evans topped Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-4; Alex de Minaur of Australia came back to defeat Laslo Djere of Serbia 3-6, 6-3, 6-4; Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan rallied past Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; American Frances Tiafoe defeated Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; Marin Cilic of Croatia held off Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4); and Fabio Fognini of Italy defeated Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Murray, a two-time champion at Wimbledon, which starts in two weeks, will face Berrettini on Wednesday.
“Am I playing tomorrow?" Murray deadpanned. “I was hoping for a day off. It will be a great test for me. I'll need to play one more level up from today if I want to do well.”