Dubai: World number four Andy Murray overcame a gutsy display from Russian Igor Kunitsyn to win 6-2, 6-3 in a floodlit first-round encounter at the Dubai tennis championships.
After defending champion Novak Djokovic eased into Wednesday`s second round with a straight-sets victory, the Briton started slowly in his first match since losing the Australian Open final to Roger Federer, surviving two break points in the opening game.
The Russian`s high-energy approach disturbed a rusty Murray in an epic 24-minute second game which included 14 deuces.
Murray`s right knee was wrapped in an ice pack before the game and the Scot visibly slumped after failing to convert an eighth break point, but won at the ninth attempt for a 2-0 lead.
"It was really tough -- that was probably the longest game I`ve ever played on the tour," Murray said in a courtside interview.
"I served well. It`s a pretty quick court compared to Australia and the balls are faster too."
A long Kunitsyn forehand gave the 22-year-old the opening set after 58 minutes.
Murray double-faulted to lose the opening game of the second set but a brutal forehand winner gave him an immediate break back.
We're building him (RvP) up now because of the World Cup. It’s a pity but we have to or he’ll never be fit.
Louis van Gaal