Andy Murray finds form as Challenger Tour brings first win on clay in 2023

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Andy Murray Credit: Alamy
Andy Murray Credit: Alamy

Andy Murray halted a four-match losing run by defeating good friend and home hope Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 at the ATP Challenger 175 tournament in Aix-en-Provence.

Murray dropped down to the Challenger Tour to rescue a clay swing that had gone awry.

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Murray, who is presently ranked 52 in the world, had yet to win on clay this season and had earlier intimated that he could skip the French Open.

“Certainly the beginning of the clay season hasn’t been that easy for me, but normally after a few weeks, I start to feel better and play better,” Murray said in his post-match press conference in Madrid.

“Obviously last year, I’m not saying I came here and played unbelievable tennis straightaway, but I was playing well enough to win matches… against good players, top players.”

“I would like to play [Roland-Garros] because I don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity,” Murray added. “I also have ambitions of competing for Wimbledon titles and that sort of stuff.”

Murray’s defeat to Italian qualifier Andrea Vavassori at the Madrid Masters had equalled his professional career’s worst run of form, and he was looking for a turnaround as he accepted entrance into the Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole.

The draw, on the other hand, could have been kinder, pitting Murray with former world number six Monfils, whom he last played in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros in 2014, winning in five sets on that occasion.

Monfils, who had dropped to 322 in the rankings after a lengthy injury layoff, was likewise seeking to regain some consistency but looked rusty throughout.

The first set was held on serve until Murray broke in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Monfils, however, quickly erased that advantage with an immediate break back with Murray blasting a return into the net on the crucial point.

Murray continued the pressure on Monfils’ next service game though, breaking again after a double fault by the Frenchman and then preserving a break-back opportunity to take a 5-2 lead.

The 35-year-old Scot comfortably served out to love, and the 44-minute first set was his 6-3.

Monfils survived a few more break opportunities to open the second set, which stayed on serve until the fifth game, when Murray edged ahead 3-2 thanks to a long return from the flagging Frenchman.

Murray held his edge until the seventh game, when Monfils was broke again, this time thudding his backcourt return into the net in the final rally of the game.

The Brit held to love and secured his second match point to fashion a triumph in one hour and 22 minutes.

Murray, the tournament’s fifth seed, advances to the second round to face Laurent Lokoli, who defeated world number 60 Albert Ramos-Vinolas 3-6 6-4 7-5.

READ MORE: Andy Murray answers questions about his kids’ favourite player, Messi or Ronaldo, titles he wants to win

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