Fans in Aix-en-Provence, France were treated to a blockbuster first-round match Wednesday, when Andy Murray and Gael Monfils met at the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event.
The three-time major champion Murray stayed steady from the baseline and drew errors from Monfils’ backhand to earn a 6-3, 6-2 victory at the Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole.
“I’m glad to be back on the court competing again at a high level,” Murray said in his on-court interview. “I’m hoping I can get some more matches here and keep building to get ready for Roland Garros.”
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While the opening set featured three consecutive breaks of serve, Murray stayed in charge on the French clay to advance after one hour, 22 minutes. The former World No. 1 didn’t face a break point in the second set.
It was Murray and Monfils’ first clash since the 2014 Roland Garros quarter-finals, which the Briton won in five sets. All six of their tour-level meetings have been at ATP Masters 1000 events or higher.
“Obviously a very tough opponent in the first round,” Murray said. “He’s just coming back from a very long injury, it’s not easy especially at our age, we’re not young anymore… He’s been a good friend of mine on the tour. I think we first played each other 25 years ago when we were 11 or 12 years old.”
Murray will next meet another Frenchman, Laurent Lokoli, who kicked off Wednesday’s action with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win against Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
In other action in southern France, eighth seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry edged Serbian teen Hamad Medjedovic 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. Home hope Geoffrey Blancaneaux ousted qualifier Ivan Gakhov 6-3, 6-2 to set up a second-round meeting against top seed Tommy Paul. French teen Arthur Fils also advanced, after rallying from 3-5 in the deciding set to overcome countryman Gregoire Barrere 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4).
Sixth seed Ugo Humbert began his Cagliari campaign by defeating Italian qualifier Gianluca Mager 6-4, 6-3. Despite both players serving less than 50 per cent, Humbert fended off seven of nine break points to advance at the Sardegna Open.
World No. 100 Daniel Elahi Galan rallied from a set down to survive Italian wild card Flavio Cobolli 5-7, 6-1, 6-2. The Colombian will next meet top seed and World No. 34 Yoshihito Nishioka at the ATP Challenger 175 event.
Daniel Elahi Galan during opening-round action in Cagliari, Italy. Credit: Mike Lawrence/ATP Tour
Three-time Challenger champion Yosuke Watanuki held a 6-4, 4-2 lead on Thiago Monteiro when the Brazilian was forced to retire with an elbow injury. The three highest-ranked Japanese male players – Nishioka, Taro Daniel, and Watanuki – are all in the top half of the Cagliari Challenger draw. The 25-year-old Watanuki could meet Nishioka in the quarter-finals.