Murray back in winning groove at US Open

Dave JAMES
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He's back: Andy Murray hits a return to James Duckworth

Former world number one Andy Murray marked his first Grand Slam tournament in 14 months with a 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 win over Australia's James Duckworth at the US Open on Monday.

Murray, the 2012 champion in New York and playing just his fifth tournament of the year after undergoing hip surgery in January, last featured in a major at Wimbledon in 2017.

Murray, whose world ranking has slumped to 382, goes on to face Fernando Verdasco, the Spanish 31st seed after seeing off the error-prone Duckworth, ranked at 448.

"He was serving big in the first set and the ball was flying around," said 31-year-old Murray who only returned to the tour in June.

"But I started to get into the return games, stood back a little more and that gave me more time to get in the rallies and find my range with my ground strokes."

At 3hr and 17mins on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, it was Murray's longest match since his comeback in a reassuring indication of his fitness.

Like Murray, former champion Stan Wawrinka also sat out the 2017 US Open -- in his case because of two knee surgeries.

But he showed no sign of rustiness on Monday, defeating eighth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria for the second successive Grand Slam.

Wawrinka, the 2016 champion, swept to a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory on Arthur Ashe Stadium to repeat his opening round triumph over Dimitrov at Wimbledon.

"The last time I played on this great court, I won the title so it was great to be able to come back and play again," said the 33-year-old Swiss.

"The level was really high, there were lots of emotions out there.

"It's always tough to play your best in the first round."

Wawrinka, the former world number three, now down at 101, shrugged off having to take a medical time-out early in the third set.

"It was very humid and I felt something. I am just coming back from injury so you never know how your body will react."

Wawrinka will next face 20-year-old Frenchman Ugo Humbert who is making his Grand Slam debut.

Murray's successor as British number one Kyle Edmund, seeded 16, slumped to a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-1 loss to Paolo Lorenzi, the 36-year-old Italian, who hadn't played on a hard court since the Australian Open in January.

Also exiting early Monday was Spanish 19th seed Roberto Bautista Agut who lost 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to Australian wild card Jason Kubler.

US hopes were buoyed by wins for 11th seed John Isner and 18th-ranked Jack Sock who won his first singles match since May.

Later Monday, world number one Rafael Nadal begins the defence of his title in what promises to be an emotional clash against close friend David Ferrer who is playing in his last Slam before retirement.

Former world number three Ferrer, who now stands at a lowly 148, beat Nadal when they met in New York in 2007.

But top seed Nadal boasts a 24-6 career stranglehold over Ferrer, including five years ago in the French Open final, the veteran's only run to a Slam final.

While three-time champion Nadal and Ferrer close proceeedings on Arthur Ashe Stadium, world number three and 2009 winner Juan Martin del Potro brings the first day on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium to a conclusion.

The towering Argentine takes on American qualifier Donald Young, the world 246.