World number one Andy Murray extended his career-best winning streak on the ATP Tour to 25 as he swept past Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-0 7-6(2) in his opener at the Qatar Open on Tuesday.
In his first competitive match of 2017, the 29-year-old Scot, who received a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours list after a stunning 2016, dropped seven points in the first set.
Chardy, ranked 69, broke serve at the start of the second set and although he dropped his own immediately he pushed Murray hard for the rest of the match on a warm desert evening.
Twice Chardy held serve to stay in the match and stretch Murray into a tiebreak but the pressure eventually told on the Frenchman as Murray completed a useful workout when Chardy sent a forehand volley over the baseline.
Olympic and Wimbledon champion Murray, bidding for a third Doha title after wins in 2008 and 2009, will play Austrian Gerald Melzer in the second round.
He is unbeaten in regular tournament play since losing to Kei Nishikori in the US Open quarter-finals in September and won his last five tournaments of 2016 to topple Novak Djokovic from the top of the rankings.
“He didnt’t start well and it’s always difficult in the first match of the year but in the second set he played extremely well and pushed me hard,” Murray said.
Defending champion Djokovic, who will be bidding for a seventh Australian Open title later this month, opened his account on Monday with a straight sets win against Jan-Lennard Struff and will face Argentine Horacio Zeballos on Wednesday.
Meanwhile in Brisbane, Rafael Nadal beat Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3 6-3 in the Brisbane International first round to make a successful return to action following two-and-a-half months out due to injury.
The Spanish former world number one, seeded fifth, made a sluggish start and fell 3-1 down in the first set against his Ukrainian opponent.
But Nadal, 30, won four successive games to clinch the opening set and the 14-times grand slam winner broke twice in the second to see off 2012 Brisbane finalist Dolgopolov in one hour 15 minutes. He will next play Germany’s Mischa Zverev.