Andy Murray made an almost fairytale start to his comeback from hip surgery Thursday as he and Feliciano Lopez shocked top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah at the Queen's Club Championships in London.
Less than five months after he had his right hip resurfaced and having not been sure if he would ever play again, Murray moved well, looked sharp and his competitive instinct kicked in immediately as he and Lopez pulled off a surprise 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over the Colombian duo, to the delight of a packed crowd who stayed late into the evening.
In a match that began just before 7 p.m. local time, Murray volleyed superbly, served well and backed up Lopez, who seemed inspired by the occasion. After taking the first set 7-5 in the tiebreak, Murray and Lopez broke the Cabal serve to lead 4-2 in the second. Murray then saved a break point to extend the lead and Lopez held serve two games later to seal the win, with Murray's reactions coming to the fore with one brilliant rally at the net.
"I think in the first set, Feli played really well, kept us in it," Murray said. "I was struggling a bit early on, especially on return. I think in the tiebreak I started to return better.
"My hip felt really good. I didn't think about it much which is a good sign and I think at the end I played some quite good stuff, so I'm happy about that.
Murray said the crowd ovation as they walked onto court had allowed the competitive juices to start flowing. "It was really nice," he said. "Just as I was walking to the court, I started to feel those nerves again ... it was a really nice [reception]."
Having beaten the top seeds, Murray was asked if he and Lopez were now favorites for the title. "I might not be able to walk tomorrow so let's see how I pull up," he said, with a smile.
Having been in pain for the past two years, Murray said in March that he was pain-free and stepped up his practice sessions in the past month, before announcing he would be returning, initially in doubles, at Queen's.
He plans to play doubles with Brazilian Marcelo Melo in next week's Nature Valley International in Eastbourne and then doubles at Wimbledon, with Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Should everything go well over the rest of this week and the rest of the grass-court summer, Murray expects to begin focusing his training towards singles and could yet return to the singles court later this year.
Earlier Thursday, top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a day of shocks as he claimed two victories to reach the quarterfinals.
Chardy served for the match in the second set but world No. 6 Tsitsipas hung in to level before sealing a 4-7, 7-6 (0), 7-6(4) victory to prolong his debut appearance at the prestigious Wimbledon warm-up event.
"I didn't play very well but I found my returns when he was serving for the match at 5-4," Tsitsipas, being tipped as the most likely of the next generation to challenge at Wimbledon, told reporters. "I didn't play my best, but survived."
Second seed Kevin Anderson, runner-up at Wimbledon last year, went down 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 to Gilles Simon while another Frenchman, Nicolas Mahut, put paid to the hopes of three-times Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka.
Mahut won 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (2) but there was an awkward moment for the veteran Frenchman as he was given a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct after leaving a ballgirl in tears when he struck her with a ball.
Auger Aliassime beat Nick Kyrgios 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 in what was the second match of the day for both players. Kyrgios, who appeared to be going through the motions in the last two games against the teenaged Canadian, was given a warning for smacking a ball out of the stadium.
Earlier, the controversial Australian had also been warned for unsportsmanlike conduct during a straight-sets defeat of Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena in which he accused a line judge of "rigging" his matches and branded the match officials a disgrace.
Reuters contributed to this report.