Reality bites for Andy Murray ahead of Australian Open after losing to world No 76 Facundo Bagnis

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Andy Murray must feel he has unfinished business on Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne’s biggest stage, where his retirement was prematurely announced in 2019. On Tuesday he returned to the court for the first time since that infamous blooper, only to suffer a deflating loss to world No 76 Facundo Bagnis.

This was the sort of match Murray knows he needs to start winning. The first round of a small ATP event, designed to give the players match practice ahead of the upcoming Australian Open, against an unheralded opponent.

But the same inconsistencies that plagued Murray throughout last season were back on show here. Unforced errors cropped up at inconvenient times, even from his once-trusty backhand. Bagnis used his left-handed serve cannily, saving 11 of 13 break points, and looked delighted at the end of what must go down as a career-best win, even though the stadium was virtually empty.

Unfortunately, Murray’s elder brother Jamie fared no better as he and Joe Salisbury were beaten in the decisive doubles rubber at the end of Great Britain’s ATP Cup tie against Canada. It was a match that pitted two doubles specialists against a pair of high-ranking singles players, in Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime, and it hinged on the superior returning skills of the Canadian team as they waltzed to a 6-4, 6-1 win.

That result gave Canada a 2-1 win in the tie and left all four teams in Group C level on points, having each scored a victory and a defeat in their opening two matches. Only one team will go through to the semi-finals after Thursday’s final group encounters, and Great Britain would probably need to win all three rubbers against the USA to progress. Even then, though, they would be relying on Germany to beat Canada in the other match.

Earlier, Dan Evans had continued his fine start to the season by defeating Shapovalov in singles: 6-4, 6-4. But Cameron Norrie had been unable to cope with Auger Aliassime’s greater firepower as he lost by a 7-6, 6-2 margin.

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