Murray’s return to DC ends quickly with loss to Gabishvili


By Howard Fendrich - AP Tennis Writer



WASHINGTON (AP) — Andy Murray’s return to the Citi Open sure resulted in a short stay.

Seeded No. 1 and appearing at the hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open for the first time in nearly a decade, the two-time major champion bowed out in his opening match with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4) loss to 53rd-ranked Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia on Wednesday night.

Murray had his chances against Gabashvili, who was limping between points on a bad left leg. Murray broke for a 5-4 lead in the third set and served for the victory. But he got broken right back, sailing a backhand long to make it 5-all.

“Obviously, disappointed not to close it out in the third set when I had a chance to do that,” said Murray, the first top-seeded man to lose his opening match in Washington since Ivan Lendl in 1993. “There’s things I feel I could have done better.”

In the tiebreaker, the third-ranked Murray went ahead 4-3. From there, though, he wouldn’t take another point, dropping the last four against Gabashvili, who has never won a tour title and came into this match with a 9-13 record in 2015.

Gabashvili said he earned the nickname “Tsunami” in the past, because he would “play one match great, but then I could lose to anyone.”

“When you win 7-6 in the third against Andy Murray, it’s something special,” said Gabashvili, who had won only three of 25 previous matches against top-10 opponents and called Wednesday’s victory the “100 percent” most important of his career.

Murray, who received a first-round bye, was playing his first match of the North American hard-court circuit — and in his first tournament since reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon last month.

“It’s obviously a disappointing match to lose,” Murray said, “but it’s not like I got blown off the court.”

Murray was the runner-up in Washington in 2006, and hadn’t been back since. This time, he trailed 4-1 at the start against Gabashvili, got back on serve, but then was broken to end the first set. On Gabashvili’s third set point, he produced a down-the-line backhand winner to cap a 14-stroke exchange, then pounded his chest with his right fist twice while shouting “Come on!”

Although Murray climbed back into the match in the second set, he was hardly at his best in the third, and his serve did not get him out of trouble in the tiebreaker.

Earlier Wednesday, 6-foot-10 American John Isner hit 17 aces, won 37 of 40 first-serve points and moved into the third round by beating Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 6-3, 7-6 (5). The eighth-seeded Isner never faced a break point, powering serves that regularly topped 130 mph.

Over and over, Isner would smack a high-bouncing serve that rose out of reach for the 5-8 Estrella Burgos.

“When I’m playing players that are significantly shorter than me, like my opponent out there tonight, it helps,” Isner said. “I hit a few serves that went into the fourth row of the stands.”

In other matches, seventh-seeded Feliciano Lopez ended Lleyton Hewitt’s last appearance at the Citi Open with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory. Next for Lopez is a match against Sam Groth, who eliminated ninth-seeded Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded American Steve Johnson defeated 11th-seeded Bernard Tomic 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-2. Other winners included 2012 champion Alexandr Dolgopolov, Richard Gasquet, Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev.

In the women’s tournament, defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova withdrew, citing an injury to her lower left leg, which allowed Sloane Stephens to move into the quarterfinals.

By Howard Fendrich

AP Tennis Writer

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