Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray successfully kicked off his latest bid for a fourth title at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers on Tuesday afternoon, eking out a marathon opening set en route to defeating Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego 7-6(3), 6-0 in the first round.
Murray and Sonego met for the first time earlier this year at the ATP 250 event in Doha, where the Briton saved three match points before winning in a dramatic third-set tiebreak. This time around, however, Murray seemed to have the upper hand from the beginning, even if his unforced errors allowed Sonego to stay ahead for much of the opening set.
Although some untimely double faults put him at risk of losing the set while serving at 4-5, Murray was able to weather the storm, digging himself out of trouble with some controlled, high-percentage tennis in the blustery conditions at Sobeys Stadium.
From an early minibreak down in the tiebreak, Murray won six of the next seven points to wrap up the set in close to 90 minutes. The Brit carried his momentum into the second set, looking for ways to keep Sonego off balance and making him hit one extra ball. With the Italian growing more erratic with his groundstrokes, Murray pressed home his advantage, closing out the win in two hours and nine minutes.
“Hopefully, with each match, you start to get used to the conditions here,” Murray told Sportsnet’s Arash Madani in his post-match interview. “It’s very different from Washington last week. Obviously, playing matches builds confidence, and I’ve played well here in the past. I do like the conditions — it just takes a little while to adjust to them.”
The former World No. 1, who is making his first appearance in Toronto since 2015 and won the second of his three National Bank Open titles in this city in 2010, now awaits the winner of the match between No. 10 seed and home favourite Félix Auger-Aliassime and Australian qualifier Max Purcell in the second round.
So, how does Murray feel about the prospect of potentially facing Auger-Aliassime in front of his home crowd? “That’d be brilliant. It’d be an amazing atmosphere, and I’d love the opportunity to maybe play him in Canada,” Murray said with a laugh. “I think he’s pretty good. He’s got a lot of potential. He’s been up at the top of the game for a number of years now. We played twice on tour and he won both matches, so that’d be a tricky one [if he wins]. But I look forward to the challenge.”