Andy Murray begins his journey to the Cincinnati Masters when he takes on Taro Daniel in qualifying on Saturday at 5:35pm (UK time).
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Any hopes of a dream Wimbledon run for Murray were dashed in the second round by John Isner, and his slow build back to fitness hasn’t been the best, with the Brit now setting his sights on the US Open. After reaching the quarter-finals of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships before losing to Alexander Bublik, Murray has suffered first-round defeats in both the Citi Open and the Canadian Open, being a wildcard entry at the latter.
Now at the Cincinnati Masters, Murray (again a wildcard entrant) must navigate two qualifying round before reaching the first-round proper, a reminder of how much his absence due to injury has affected his place in tennis. The Brit is currently ranked 48th in the world, having been No.1 in November 2016, but fans will be hoping it’s the start of a climb back towards the top.
Standing in Murray’s way in the first round of qualifying is Daniel, who has had a mixed bag of tournaments following his first-round exit from Wimbledon. Daniel has been a frequent face in qualifying at this level and in both the Atlanta Open and Citi Open the Japanese star got through the preliminary rounds before bowing out.
However, last time out at the Canadian Open, Daniel did not make it through qualifying, losing to Arthur Rinderknech in straight sets in what was his second match, having beat Liam Draxl previously. This will be the fifth time Murray and Daniel have faced off in ATP matches, with the Brit winning three so far, including twice already this year (though it was Daniel who knocked Murray out of the Australian Open).
The winner of this match will face either Emilio Nava or Thiago Monteiro in the second qualifying round.