Shanghai, Oct 8 (AFP/APP): Andy Murray went down scrapping in a bruising three-set defeat to 12th-ranked Italian Fabio Fognini on Tuesday at the Shanghai Masters.
In a bad-tempered match that stretched past three hours, the two players confronted one another near the end at the crossover. Fognini plays the unseeded American Taylor Fritz or Russian seventh seed Karen Khachanov in the last 16 after a 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 7-6 (7/2) victory.
It came hours after the Australian Open said the former number one Murray will make his return to Grand Slam tennis there in January, a year after a career-saving hip operation. The 32-year-old Briton says that his hip is now fine but he needs to build up his match fitness and speed across the court.
The three-time Grand Slam winner will be pleased at how he was able to go toe-to-toe with Fognini even as the match clock ticked past three tough hours on court. But he will be kicking himself for failing to put Fognini away when he was serving for the match at 6-5 in the third set.
The 32-year-old Fognini and Murray had a lengthy exchange at the net and bad blood boiled between them throughout. They shared the briefest of handshakes at the end.
Murray, who generally looked more relaxed than he did in victory on Monday, was two points from winning the first set. But the colourful Fognini fought back to level the set at 6-6, then edged the tie break.
He appeared to switch off in the second set, allowing Murray to level. The deciding third set was punishing, taking 22 minutes to play just two games. Despite the defeat, Murray’s comeback is going better than even he expected.
He reached his first singles quarter-final in a year at last week’s China Open, defeating 13th-ranked US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini on the way.