NEWPORT — It has been a long journey on the continents of the globe, touring the world playing professional tennis, since he last stepped onto the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame as an 18-year-old, making his stateside debut in the oldest long-running tournament of its type in “the colonies.”
Seven-hundred and eight wins later, with a pair of Wimbledon championships (2013, 2016), a US Open crown (in 2012), two Olympic gold medals (2012 in London beating Roger Federer and 2016 in Rio de Janiero, 46 tournament titles , and becoming the first Great Britain to achieve a world ranking of No. 1 (2016), Andy Murray returned to Bellevue Avenue a little wiser, more mature and $62 million richer.
Murray needed merely 54 minutes to dispatch Californian Sam Querrey 6-2, 6-0 Tuesday in his first-round return to Newport.
“It’s been a long time, it’s a really nice town to come to, great food, great views, a nice coffee shops, I went to the (Hall of Fame) Museum for the first time and that was a nice experience,” Murray added.
“One of the reasons why improving your ranking and trying to get seeded is important is to avoid playing top players and dangerous guys like that early in tournaments,” Murray said. Murray has been focused on climbing the rankings ladder after losing to world no. 1-ranked Danil Medvedev in March as an unseeded player at the Miami Open. Murray hadn’t been ranked in the top 50 since 2018 when one hip surgery after another began to take their toll.
Murray turned a potential test of determination against the 34-year-old, 6-foot-6, former No. 11-ranked Querrey into a route. He hit 76 percent of his first serves (31 of 41) successfully and won 68 percent (21) of those points. Murray double-faulted but twice and faced just three break points.
Querrey, meanwhile, was successful on just 39 percent (15 of 38) of his first serves and won just three of 23 of his second-service points.
Abdominal issues undermined Murray earlier in the season, though none surfaced at Wimbledon, where he fell under the weight of 36 service aces by John Isner in a second-round match, 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-7 ( 3), 6-4.
That came after an impressive run to the finals at Stuttgart, Germany, where Murray blitzed past Alex Bublik (taking a second-set tiebreaker), Stefanos Tsitsipas (taking a first-set tiebreaker) and Nick Kyrgios (taking a first-set tiebreaker) in straight sets.
“It depends on how I am physically,” Murray said of his week-to-week tournament participation, battling back through hip surgeries over the past four years. “If I physically feel good, then we’ll try to keep playing. But it’s extremely difficult with the problems I’ve had with my body in the last few years to make long-term predictions about how I’m going to be even in a few weeks’ time, never mind in a year’s time.”
The 35-year-old Murray made his Newport debut in 2005 and was most critical of the court decisions after losing in the second round to Antony Dupuis. A year later, as the No. 1 seed, he won three rounds and advanced to the semifinals — beating, oddly enough, query in a second-round match 7-5, 6-2. During his career, Murray posted a most-enviable winning percentage (.821) on grass, 115-25.
Murray took full advantage of an endless series of Querrey unforced errors, gaining service breaks in the second (a double fault at 30-15), sixth and eighth (two double faults) to win the first set.
Murray lost just seven points among the six contested games of the second set, taking a service break in the second (with a Querrey double fault at break point), fourth (with two double faults) and sixth games.
Murray fell behind 1-0, losing service in the very first game of the match.
“When it’s (gusting winds) like this, it’s not really about the quality of the tennis that you play, but finding a way to win,” Murray said. “It was really difficult, the conditions. I grew up (in Scotland) playing in the wind and have been successful playing in it, but it’s not enjoyable to play in when it’s like that.”
Murray was ranked among the top four players in the world (with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Federer) eight times from 2008-’16. He became the first British player since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam Tournament title.
Murray entered Newport with a 17-10 record in ATP events, having won three rounds at Sorbiton, Great Britain, two rounds at the Madrid ATP Masters, and opening-round matches at the Australian Open, Rotterdam, Dubai, Qatar, Indian Wells and Miami.
The 34-year-old Querrey, ranked as high as No. 11 in 2018 but now No. 281, had beaten Murray just twice (in 2010 at Los Angeles and in the 2017 Wimbledon quarterfinals) in their previous nine meetings.
In other matches, no. 5-seeded Ben Bonzi of France used 10 aces and service breaks in the third and seventh games of the third set to prevail 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 over William Blumberg; Wimbledon doubles champion (with Matt Ebden) Max Purcell of Australia upset Adrian Mannarino, saving nine break points for a 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 verdict; No. 7-seeded Jiri Vesely of Czechoslovakia beat 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-2; No. 8-seeded James Duckworth of Australia hit 11 aces and saved six of eight break points to beat Liam Broady 6-2, 4-6, 6-2; while 6-foot-7 former Georgia Tech star Chris Eubanks, coming out of the qualifying rounds, won his third match, 6-4, 7-5 over Dom Koepfer.
“The first goal is to try to get myself seeded (for the US Open),” Murray said. “The majors give me the greatest motivation to fit in all of the work. All of the events that I’m playing, like before Wimbledon, I had a goal of preparing as best I could. I’m hoping to win some matches.”