MONTE CARLO (AFP) – Andy Murray returned from over a month out with an elbow injury to launch his clay-court season with a gruelling 7-5, 7-5 defeat of Gilles Muller at the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday.
The world number one and top seed waited until late in both sets to make his move, finally putting Muller away in just under two hours to reach the third round.
But the 29-year-old Scot was poor on his serve with eight double faults while breaking Luxembourg s Muller four times.
“I definitely played better as the match went on, obviously first service game was not ideal,” Murray said.
“But, when you are coming back from not really serving for a few weeks, it s normal.
“Maybe the technique changed a little bit. You get into the match, and it s tricky.”
It was Murray s first time back on the ATP since suffering an elbow problem — his last match was a second-round loss to Vasek Pospisil at Indian Wells on March 12.
The three-time Monte Carlo semi-finalist now stands 13-3 on the season and has one title from Dubai in his pocket.
Murray said his elbow was not a major problem anymore.
“My elbow s always a bit sore. That s nothing to do with this week. The last two years, always when I serve, it s just a little bit sore. But it was nothing out of the ordinary today,” he said.
Murray was joined in round three by Swiss third seed Stan Wawrinka, who saw off Czech Jiri Vesely 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Three-time Grand Slam winner Wawrinka won Monte Carlo three years ago over compatriot and friend Roger Federer.
“Overall it was a good match, the first match on clay,” said the Swiss.
“The feeling was good. Winning in three sets means it was a good victory. It s important to win and keep going.
“I prepared well, practise was good. Physically I m fine. We ll see what I can do. I know my level is good. If I m able to improve, I might have a chance in this tournament.”
Croatian fifth seed Marin Cilic defeated France s Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-0, while Austrian Dominic Thiem, seeded sixth, advanced over Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3, 6-2.
Czech ninth seed Tomas Berdych put an end to the run of 39-year-old Tommy Haas 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Pablo Carreno Busta, Alexander Zverev and Albert Ramos-Vinolas also advanced.