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Murray wins Queen's opener in 1 000th match of career, Alcaraz advances

rugby18 June 2024 18:20| Ā© AFP
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Andy Marray Ā© Getty Images

Andy Murray started what is likely to be his Queen's farewell on Tuesday by beating Alexei Popyrin as defending champion Carlos Alcaraz made a winning return following his French Open triumph.

Murray, 37, a record five-time champion at the London grass-court tournament, outlasted the 48th-ranked Australian 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the 1 000th Tour-level match of his career.

The British former world number one dropped the second set and appeared to be struggling physically, grimacing after every serve.

But he hit back in the third, a vintage cross-court winner and fist pump lifting the vocal crowd as he brought up break point before dispatching it with a clinical backhand on his way to victory in one hour and 51 minutes.

Murray, set to retire either after Wimbledon or the Olympics, said: "I've not got too many wins this year, it's been a difficult season, and I did well to come through in the end.

"Any win you can get is important, that's why we play. With Wimbledon a few weeks away I want to get some matches in my legs and some confidence. It's great to get another win here."

The three-time Grand Slam champion, who competes with a metal hip, has struggled with an ankle injury and a back issue this year.

The Scot, who has plummeted to 129th in the rankings, said: "I've felt better, but it was enough today.

"My mum told me it was my 1,000th match and that's a lot of matches, a lot of wear and tear on the body and it's not easy, but I managed to push through it."

Spain's Alcaraz, who lifted his third Grand Slam at the French Open earlier this month, was not at his best but recovered from a mid-match dip to triumph.

The top seed committed just one unforced error in the first set to take a grip on the contest but his level dipped at the start of the second set and he trailed 2-5.

From there he battled back impressively, saving three set points on serve at 4-5 before sealing victory to extend his winning streak on grass to 13 matches.

The world number two, who followed up last year's victory at Queen's by winning his first Wimbledon, will next face Stuttgart champion Jack Draper, who was a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 winner against Argentine Mariano Navone in less than an hour.

"The first match in any tournament is never easy but even more difficult here on grass, starting the grass season," said Alcaraz, 21.

He added: "It is good to have tough situations, having to deal with nerves."

Earlier, Lorenzo Musetti upset Australian second seed Alex de Minaur 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

There were also wins for former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Taylor Fritz and fellow Americans Tommy Paul and Sebastian Korda.

Sixth-seeded American Ben Shelton was ousted by French qualifier Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard while Italy's Matteo Arnaldi eliminated eighth seed Ugo Humbert.

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