Murray sees off Thiem in Madrid as Halep surges on

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·4-min read
Andy Murray got the better of Dominic Thiem in Madrid (AFP/GABRIEL BOUYS) (GABRIEL BOUYS)
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Andy Murray has urged Dominic Thiem to “keep going” in his comeback from injury after Murray defeated the Austrian 6-3, 6-4 in the Madrid Open first round to claim his first win on a clay court in five years.

Thiem returned from a 10-month wrist injury lay-off four weeks ago and has yet to taste victory in any of the four matches he has contested so far.

Former world No.1 Murray, who has spent several seasons dealing with hip problems and recovering from surgeries, gave Thiem some words of encouragement at the end of their clash at the Caja Magica.

“I hope you feel better soon. I’m glad to see you back, keep going, it takes a lot of time but you’ll be fine,” Murray told the former US Open champion as they shook hands at the net.

Murray, who initially intended to skip the clay season, made a surprise appearance in Madrid after the hard-court Challengers he was planning to compete at were cancelled.

He plans on playing in the Spanish capital, as well as next week’s ATP 1000 tournament in Rome before shifting his focus to next month’s grass season.

Two-time Madrid champion Murray benefited from 33 unforced errors off the Thiem racquet as he booked himself a second round meeting with Denis Shapovalov who saw off fellow left-hander Ugo Humbert in straight sets.

“I enjoyed it. I prepared really hard before coming here, worked hard and really wanted to go on and put a good performance out there and I feel like I did that,” said Murray after the win.

Former world No.1 Simona Halep recorded the 30th Madrid Open win of her career, overcoming American phenom Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-4 in the third round.

Halep climbed back from 1-4 down in the second set to skip past Gauff in 77 minutes.

"I felt like I played exactly what I had to play," said the 30-year-old Halep, who has won twice before in Madrid in a record four final appearances.

"In the second set she changed a little bit, she was more aggressive and it wasn't easy to adjust. But in the end I pushed her back and I did what I wanted to do."

- Eid win for Jabeur -

The Romanian two-time Grand Slam champion takes a 2-1 head-to-head record into her last-eight showdown with the Ons Jabeur, who at No.10 in the world, is the highest-ranked player left in the draw.

Jabeur joked with the crowd that they should consider supporting her in the next match against Halep, who knocked out their home favourite Paula Badosa in the previous round.

"Just a reminder guys, Simona won against Paula and she's Spanish so if she wins you have to cheer for me," laughed Jabeur after her 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 success over reigning Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.

In a match that was interrupted by a sudden rain storm that flooded the court, Jabeur put on a show in the final game, flaunting her unique touch and pulling off impossible gets on her way to the last eight.

The win came on a special occasion for the Tunisian as she celebrates Eid with the Muslim world.

"It's two parties let's say. Some people were telling me, 'Listen this is Eid, so you have to win today'. So I was trying my best," said the 27-year-old Jabeur.

On the men's side, Gael Monfils eased past 20-year-old Spanish wildcard Carlos Gimeno Valero 6-3, 6-0 in just 55 minutes to book a second-round meeting with world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

Monfils has never beaten Djokovic in 17 meetings but insists he is not obsessed with idea of trying to get the better of the Serb at least once.

"The guy is better than me," said Monfils, who is contesting his first clay-court tournament of the season.

"Every match is an opportunity to win it. I try to take some lesson in everything, but I don't really care. He can beat me tomorrow. He can beat me in Rome. He can beat at Roland Garros. Maybe I will get (there) once and that's it. Who cares at the end?"

Italian No.10 seed Jannik Sinner squandered a 5-2 lead in the opening set and fought back from the brink in the second en route to a 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory over former French Open junior champion Tommy Paul of USA.

Sinner saved three match points late in the second set and broke Paul as the American was serving for the victory to force a decider, finally advancing to meet Australian Alex de Minaur in the next round.

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