UK hope heads home early from Aussie Open

Andy Murray crashed and burned at the first obstacle but Andy Roddick and Nikolay Davydenko made stress-free starts in the men’s singles on the first day of the Australian Open on Monday.

Murray, the world number nine, has plenty of free time on his hands after coming off second-best to flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a centre-court showpiece.

The Scot, rated one of the new young stars of the men’s game, fell to the athletic Tsonga, 7-5, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (7/5) in three hours, 14 minutes of cut and thrust tennis.

While the 20-year-old was the major men’s casualty on day one, sixth seeded American Roddick, fourth seeded Russian Davydenko and French eighth seed Richard Gasquet were untroubled in the year’s first Grand Slam.

Defending champion Roger Federer, aiming for his third consecutive title, plays on Tuesday.

Roddick preserved his record of never losing an opening round match at the Australian Open when he advanced 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 against Czech qualifier Lukas Dlouhy.

“I think those are the type of matches where if you’re not match tough it can get a little tricky,” Roddick said.

“I just tried to stay the course and get through his kind of peaks and valleys.”

The American serve-volleyer, in the bottom half of the men’s draw and away from top seed Federer, is looking to do better than his best finish of three semifinal appearances here.

He faces a potential semifinal with second seed Rafael Nadal.

Davydenko, who remains at the centre of an investigation into a betting scandal following his defeat by Argentine Martin Vassallo Arguello at the Sopot Open last August, downed Frenchman Michael Llodra, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3.

Gasquet took four sets to get past Australian wildcard Nick Lindahl, 6-0, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.

Murray, Britain’s great hope following the retirement of Tim Henman, blamed poor decision-making and not his physical preparation for his exit.

He was flummoxed by the mercurial Frenchman, who had one of his “on” days in bundling the ninth seed out of the tournament.

Arriving full of optimism after a first-up win in the Qatar Open, the 20-year-old had his chances, but was disconsolate at some of his “silly shots”.

He dismissed suggestions he was not well enough prepared.

“I did all the right preparation, worked very hard on my game and I’ve improved a lot of my shots,” he said.

“I’m obviously disappointed that I didn’t win the match. I would have wanted to win more than anything. I gave it my best effort out there.”

It was the third time in nine Grand Slams that he has been dumped out in the first round.

Elsewhere, Spanish 11th seed Tommy Robredo fought back from losing the opening two sets to oust German Mischa Zverev, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (7/2) 6-4, 7-5, and big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic eliminated British qualifier Jamie Baker 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 6-4.

Russian 14th seed Mikhail Youzhny knocked out French wildcard Mathieu Montcourt 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3).—AFP

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