Murray wins Stuttgart opener as Kyrgios finds his feet – and his shoes

Andy Murray bounced back from a poor start to win his opener in Stuttgart © AFP/File/GABRIEL BOUYS

Stuttgart (Germany) (AFP), June 7 – Andy Murray won his first match at the ATP event in Stuttgart on Tuesday, while Nick Kyrgios made a triumphant return after missing the European clay season.

Murray overcame a slow first-round start on grass beating Christopher O’Connell 6-4, 6-3 and Kyrgios edged Czech youngster Jiri Lehecka 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.

The colorful Australian barely had enough gear to take to the court, with his tennis bag appearing on Monday while his all-important grass shoes only arrived at the tournament site with an hour to spare before his game.

“I had to play doubles in clay shoes yesterday,” said Kyrgios, who partnered with Alexander Bublik. “I had to face a bit of adversity.

“Today was my first time wearing turf shoes.

“I didn’t have the best preparation for here. I hit the grass in Australia, but there’s no such thing as a game.

“I never needed match play to be successful, I know what I have to do to win.”

Former world number one Murray, now ranked 68th, is back in his element on grass and can hardly compare his current confidence with his low point of a year ago.

“It’s completely different,” the 35-year-old said after winning 116th-place Australian qualifier O’Connell.

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“Last year I was barely training before Queen’s and when I was training I wasn’t moving well.

“I also walked into Queen’s at the last minute, had a problem with a nerve in my leg and just didn’t feel well.”

But this unfortunate situation is now well over for the three-time Grand Slam champion.

“This year I trained for three weeks on grass and had some good sessions,” said the Stuttgart debutant.

“I had some good matches (last week at Surbiton) and good preparation for Wimbledon.”

Murray delivered seven aces to the Weissenhof Club – whose grass was originally organized by Wimbledon gardeners – and beat his opponent four times.

“I’m very motivated right now,” Murray said. “It comes from the love of sport. You have to be ready to play despite the pain.

“But it’s a lot easier to do that when you’re competing for major titles.”

Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who starts play on Thursday after a bye, is determined to improve his position on the grass court after losing in the first round of Wimbledon on three of four visits.

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“I’m not where I want to be on the surface. But I have the right intentions – I am fully present and committed to my work on the court,” said the world number five.

“I try to get as many points as possible on every surface. I had a lot of points on clay this spring (title defense in Monte Carlo and final in Rome) and I want to try to do the same on grass.

Tsitsipas starts against Swiss qualifier Dominic Stricker, the 2020 Roland-Garros junior champion who beat American Maxime Cressy 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/2 ).

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