Andy Murray won his first match on clay for nearly five years as the Ivan Lendl effect had an immediate impact at the Madrid Open on Monday night. He defeated 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem in straight sets. The Scot and the Czech-born American announced they would work together for a third time in March.
And after a training camp in Florida, the Scot won his first official match back under Lendl against fellow Grand Slam champion Thiem 6-3 6-4. Lendl took Murray to three Grand Slam titles and world No 1 earlier in the Scot’s career.
Murray was playing his first claycourt match for 18 months – and his first time at this event since 2017. And the wildcard had not won a match on the red stuff since beating Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals of the 2017 French Open. He suffered a hip injury in his semi-final defeat to Stan Wawrinka which was the start of his long injury problems
And 2020 US Open winner Thiem was also on the comeback trail as he sought his first win since suffering a serious right wrist injury last June. The two produced some high-class rallies in the Manolo Santana Stadium between two former French Open finalists before the Austrian’s flakey forehand let him down.
The world No 91, who was playing on a protected ranking, dropped his serve for the first time when he sailed a forehand long – and he repeated the error on set point. Murray mixed up his play nicely with drop shots and broke again to lead 2-1 in the second set when a Thiem forehand hit the net.
The Scot, who turns 35 later this month, saved all three break points on his serve and wrapped up the match with his first match point when Thiem slapped a forehand return into the net after one hour and 42 minutes.
Murray, who will play the winner of the first-round match between Denis Shapovalov and Ugo Humbert, could face world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the third round.
All five British singles players won in the first round here as Cam Norrie saw off world No 73 Soonwoo Koo 7-5 7-5 with a single break at 5-5 in each set. “It wasn’t easy,” said the world No 11. “I just toughed it out at the end.” Emma Raducanu, Jack Draper and Dan Evans also made it through.