Tennis: Murray makes winning return to clay

Andy Murray. Photo / AP
Andy Murray. Photo / AP

Andy Murray made a winning return to clay and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrated his 27th birthday with a victory as both seeds reached the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters today.

Murray, third in the field behind Novak Djokovic and seven-times winner Rafael Nadal, sprang to life to start his clay campaign with a 6-0 6-3 hammering of Serb Victor Troicki.

Fourth seed Tsonga thrilled the crowd with his 6-2 6-4 demolition of German Philippe Kohlschreiber in less than 90 minutes, while saving six break points.

"I don't remember playing on my birthday as a professional," said Tsonga, who was serenaded by fans from the stands.

"I'm sure it happened when I was younger, of course. Now that I'm 27, I'm in the second part of my career. I'm not that young anymore. I played my first professional match at 19 years old.

"I've been on the tour for eight years. I know I'm not going to be on the tour for the next eight years."

The home hero confessed: "I had some moments where I got worried. I was almost broken several times. But I remained solid and I played well on the important points."

The pair were joined in the third round by Spanish 13th seed Fernando Verdasco, who overcame Ivan Dodig of Croatia 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Murray beat Troicki under the watchful eye of coach Ivan Lendl, the mentor who has forged some steel into his game.

"The goal is Paris, that's what we are working on now," said Murray, in reference the French Open.

"Usually it takes me a few matches to get comfortable on clay. The match today was very good and I got off to a good start in the match as well.

"Sometimes it's a close, tight, first set, the first match on clay. Anything can happen, it's very easy on the clay to start rushing and making mistakes. But because I got ahead, I didn't need to do that.

"Each year I've felt more comfortable on clay. It's just a surface, out of all the surfaces - for me, anyway."

Murray showed poise as he put his final loss to Djokovic at the Miami Masters just over a fortnight ago behind him.

Murray, who reached the semi-finals a year ago before losing to Nadal, improved to 18-4 for the season as he began his preparations for Roland Garros.

In the first round, Houston winner Juan Monaco, who arrived only the night before the match, fell victim to an ankle injury.

The Argentine 11th seed rolled his right ankle in the fifth game of the final set against Dutchman Robin Haase, who went through 7-5 0-6 2-3.

Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka knocked out Spanish 10th seed Feliciano Lopez 6-1 6-4, while Japanese 12th seed Kei Nishikori beat Albert Ramos 6-2 7-5 but German 14th seed Florian Mayer lost 3-6 6-1 6-3 to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.

Just a few kilometres from the border with Italy, several Italians progressed, with Fabio Fognini eliminating Frenchman Michael Llodra 7-5 6-3 and Filippo Volandri stopping compatriot Alessandro Giannessi 7-5 6-3.

Andreas Seppi earned a second-round test with top seed Djokovic after beating Victor Hanescu 6-3 6-1.

Potito Starace also went through as the injured Carlos Berlocq retired while trailing 4-2 in the first set.

-AAP

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