Murray makes a winning return

Britain's Andy Murray returns to James Duckworth of Australia during their men's singles match in Brisbane on Tuesday. AFP

Andy Murray doesn't know how long his latest comeback can last, so he's planning on making the most of it.

The 31-year-old Murray returned to competitive tennis for the first time since September and gradually warmed into it, going on a late roll to take the last four games in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Australian wildcard entry James Duckworth at the Brisbane International on Tuesday.

"It's been really hard. Eighteen months, a lot of ups and downs. It was tricky just to get back on the court competing again," said Murray, who had a noticeable limp between points but didn't show many injury signs during rallies of strain from his troublesome hip.

"I'm happy I'm back out here competing again." He appeared stiff and rusty to start the match but managed to chase down Duckworth's chips and drop shots and moved across court well, twice manufacturing forehand winners from defensive positions on important points.

Winner of three majors and a five-time finalist at the Australian Open, Murray is playing on a protected ranking in Brisbane after sliding to No 240 in a 2018 season in which he finished 7-5 from 12 matches after surgery on his right hip in January. He missed the last five weeks of the season with an ankle injury.

In first-round women's matches, Johanna Konta ousted No. 3-seeded Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Ajla Tomljanovic, who beat Katerina Siniakova 1-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Meanwhile, the ageless Venus Williams launched her 25th year as a professional by outlasting Victoria Azarenka in a three-set thriller on day two of the WTA Auckland Classic.

In the showdown between the two former world number ones, the 38-year-old Williams overcame Azarenka, nine years her junior, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

The two hour 10 minute marathon was packed with power and precision, and in the end Azarenka's nine aces were not enough.

"I love my job, I love what I do but tonight was not easy and maybe one of the toughest first rounds I've ever played," Venus said.

Defending champion Julia Goerges coasted through her first match with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Sweden's Johanna Larsson, while fifth seed Barbora Strycova was forced into a three-set battle to survive Taylor Townsend.

Strycova raced to a 5-1 lead over Townsend before the American lifted her game to force the match to a deciding set in which the Czech prevailed, to win 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3.

Fourth seed Petra Martic and injured eighth seed Alison Van Uytvanck both bowed out in the first round.

American Sofia Kenin produced the first upset of the tournament when she knocked out Martic 7-5, 2-6, 6-2.

Van Uytvanck retired with an ankle injury when leading Dutch qualifier Bibiane Schoofs 4-3 in the first set.

 

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