Gerasimov stops Murray return in Montpellier opener

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83rd World Egor Gerasimov beat resurrected Andy Murray 7-6 (8), 6-1 on Tuesday to reach the second round of the Open Sud de France.

The important-serving Belarusian was the best player in both sets, outlasting Murray in a grueling 71-minute first set before moving into the second en route to a one-hour and 44-minute win.

“I just tried to focus on the game and not think about the mistakes,” Gerasimov said during his interview on the pitch. “I just wanted to do my best today because I was playing with a great champion. It was a great experience and I’m happy.”

Murray was playing his first TBEN game since October of last year. The No.121 player in the FedEx ATP rankings, the Briton came to Montpellier to continue his return to form after undergoing right hip surgery following the 2019 Australian Open. Later that year, Murray won an TBEN title at the European Open in Antwerp, which, like the Open Sud de France, is an indoor event.

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Making his Montpellier debut with a wild card, Murray came up against a fit Gerasimov in the first round. Neither player was able to create distance between them during the difficult first set. Gerasimov was the player with the most chances, taking the first lead of the set at 4-3 and then again in the tie-break. But Murray showed flashes of his vintage form as he leveled them up every time, battling through lengthy rallies to extend his time in the game.

Murray held two set points in the tie-break and won one of his own with a powerful delivery at 6/6. But he couldn’t maintain that level as Gerasimov went on to win the set on his fourth opportunity.

“I just tried to make good shots, that’s all,” said Gerasimov. “I wasn’t thinking of winning the tie-break or losing the tie-break. I was thinking of the pitch, of the game.”

As Murray’s familiar growls increased in volume, Gerasimov kept his cool and went through the second set. The Briton appeared to lack energy as Gerasimov kept him on the run, winning the first five games in a row. Murray saved two match points, but Gerasimov sealed his third with his 12th ace.

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Gerasimov has qualified for the second round and will face the winner between fifth seed Jannik Sinner and Aljaz Bedene.

Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk pulled off a surprise in his first tour-level encounter with eighth seed Jan-Lennard Struff, 37th in the FedEx ATP rankings. Gojowczyk, ranked No.144, broke his compatriot’s serve four times in straight sets to close a 6-3, 6-4 victory in one hour and 15 minutes.

The hopes of another home champion in Montpellier took a hit when two French players pulled out on Tuesday. Austria’s Dennis Novak resisted a mid-match dip to see Gilles Simon 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-3 after a two-and-a-half-hour marathon. He won a second round clash with No.3 Dusan Lajovic in his next game.

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French wild card Benjamin Bonzi continued his positive momentum after strong ATP Challenger Tour results in his clash with former champion and compatriot Lucas Pouille. Pouille was playing his first round-level match since the Rolex Shanghai Masters 2019 after an elbow injury, and was unable to rebound after losing a tight opening set to the fit Bonzi, who won 7-6 (6 ), 6 -2. Bonzi will face Jiri Vesely next after the Czech player claimed a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Mikael Ymer in just 50 minutes.

Dutch player Tallon Griekspoor is also on edge after beating American Marcos Giron in straight sets, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3. The Haarlem native served 10 aces to seal his victory after two hours and eight minutes, setting up a second round clash with sixth seed Ugo Humbert.

Did you know?
Murray played his first tournament of the year at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Biella, Italy earlier this month. The former world No. 1 reached the final.

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