Andy Murray’s return to singles action after a seven-month absence ended in defeat in Cincinnati and the 32-year-old confirmed he would not consider playing singles at the US Open.
His first-round match against Richard Gasquet at the Western and Southern Open ended in a 6-4, 6-4 reverse with the Frenchman in control throughout.
“I think I did OK,” Murray said. “I think there were a lot of things I would like to have done better but you also have to be somewhat realistic in terms of what you expect.
“I haven’t played many matches in the past 18 months really. It’s going to take time.”
Now pain-free after hip surgery, the Scot started slowly as he struggled with his first serve and had to contend with Gasquet’s determination to test his mobility at every opportunity.
Murray showed flashes of his best form as he warmed to his task but his lack of match fitness and Gasquet’s frequent use of the drop shot meant he was always fighting a losing battle.
Gasquet said: “You could see that it was not the Murray of before but that’s to be expected.”
Murray last played singles at a grand slam event in Melbourne in January, when he lost in the first round, and he will limit himself to the doubles and mixed doubles at Flushing Meadows. He may now play singles next week at the Winston-Salem tournament.
The twice Wimbledon and Olympic champion, who feared in January that his career could be over, surrendered his service in the opening game and came within a point of a 3-0 deficit before rallying. However, Gasquet unsettled him with more drop shots before taking the first set.
The second started in much the same fashion with the Frenchman establishing a 2-0 lead. Murray repeatedly threatened to break while holding his own service with increasing confidence. He hit his first groundstroke winner, a crosscourt forehand, in the fourth game of the second set. But Gasquet, who himself missed four months of 2019 after undergoing groin surgery in January, maintained control and sealed the second set.
Greg Rusedski said the first-round match was "very positive" for Murray. "He will have learned a lot from a physical point of view and how he recovers overnight," Rusedski tweeted.
Murray's painful exit from the Australian Open had him thinking his career might be over. The three-times major champion underwent a second hip surgery in January, receiving metal implants that helped eliminate the pain that had hobbled him.
He played doubles in several tournaments, including Wimbledon with Serena Williams and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, before trying singles at Cincinnati, where he is a two-times title winner.