Andy Murray suffered his first career defeat to Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the first round of the Cincinnati Masters as he continues on the long road back to top form after hip surgery.
Murray, back on court after pulling out of the Citi Open in Washington due to fatigue after three gruelling matches earlier this month, was back in action in Ohio but could not contain the impressive shot-making of Pouille, who produced 40 winners to just 15 from Murray, to win the match 6-1 1-6 6-4 in an hour and 53 minutes.
It was Pouille’s first victory over Murray in five meetings, while the Scot suffered his first defeat to a Frenchman in three years since when Gilles Simon beat him in Rotterdam.
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The Briton, playing as a wildcard at an event he won in 2008 and 2011, was way below his best against the 16th seed in the opening set and trailed 4-0 in the opening set after spurning three break points in the fourth game.
He saved two more break points in the next game to hold for 4-1 but Pouille, who has lost all four previous matches against Murray, held serve and then broke for the third time to take the opening set in just over 30.
The 31-year-old broke Pouille in the first game and never looked back, stepping on to the front foot, finding his range and playing more aggressively.
Pouille was broken for a second time to trail 4-1 and after Murray comfortably held, the Frenchman lost his serve again in the seventh game to send the match into a decider.
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Murray lost his way in the deciding set as Pouille pounced when the Briton double-faulted on the first point before being broken in the opening game.
Murray pulled it back to 5-4, having saved match point on his serve as he trailed 5-3, but Pouille held his nerve to hold serve in the 10th game, sealing a deserved victory.