Murray struggles in his 2012 singles debut

Murray struggles in his 2012 singles debut

BRISBANE, Australia - The Associated Press
Murray struggles in his 2012 singles debut

After beating Mikhail Kukushkin, Scottish star Andy Murray will next play Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller tonight.

Andy Murray shook off some rustiness and overcame a number of big returns from Mikhail Kukushkin to win his first singles match since late November and advance to the second round of the Brisbane International.

Top-seeded Murray lost the opening four games before he rallied to beat Kazakhstan’s Kukushkin 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours yesterday.

Yesterday’s game marked Murray’s return to the game, since the Scotsman hadn’t played a singles match since he withdrew from the season-ending World Tour Finals in London with an injured groin.

Bidding to become the first Briton to win a Grand Slam since Fred Perry’s 1936 victory, Murray announced on the weekend that he’d hired eight-time Grand Slam winner Ivan Lendl as a coach.

Lendl will join Murray ahead of the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 16 but it seems they’ll have a lot to work on judging by Murray’s season-opening performance.

Yesterday, he dropped serve in the first and third games of the match and, after coming back and having a game point at 5-5 on his own serve, inexplicably didn’t play a shot to one of Kukushkin’s ground strokes which kissed the baseline.

Murray called for a review, which showed the ball was good, and the No. 91-ranked Kukushkin also won the next two points to break serve again and held for the set.

Murray hobbled at times and clutched at his right leg but scrambled well enough to chase down a drop shot and send a passing shot down the line to convert a break-point chance for a 3-1 lead in the second.

From then, he was always in front, with Kukushkin becoming more errant as he pushed harder on his ground strokes.

“He was hitting winners from all over the place. I was a little bit slow, I didn’t expect him to come out swinging like that in the first match of the year,” Murray said. “You have to be mentally ready from the start, and I wasn’t quite there. I played better at the end.”