By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) -Twice former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray made an emotional comeback at the Queen's Club championships to claim a 6-3 6-2 win over Frenchman Benoit Paire on Monday.
The 34-year-old, five times a champion at the Queen's event, delighted a home crowd with some trademark brilliance to move through to a second-round against top seed Matteo Berrettini.
Murray underwent hip resurfacing surgery in January 2019 and has struggled to reach his former level with niggling injuries limiting his tournament time.
The erratic Paire tested the British player's movement with a succession of drop shots, the majority of which Murray tracked down successfully. Murray was also helped by a string of unforced errors from his bearded opponent but also contributed some dazzling winners on a sunny summer day.
He broke Paire's serve in the fourth game of the first set with a running forehand pass and matched that with an angled backhand winner to get a break ahead in the second set, after which Paire offered little resistance.
"The body is old, but I did quite well today in terms of movement and stuff, considering it was my first (singles) match on grass in three years," Murray said before choking up with emotion as the crowd cheered.
"I love playing tennis and it was great to be out here competing again."
The world number 124 Murray, handed a wildcard as he looks to Wimbledon, will face a step up in quality when he takes on Berrettini who came through a tough first-round battle against fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia 7-6(5) 7-6(4).
Berrettini, playing his first match on grass this season, took a while to find his feet on the slick lawn and fell 4-1 behind in the opening set in front of a small crowd.
But he found his range and battled back to take a tight opener on a tiebreak.
Travaglia saved a match point in the 12th game of the second set but he could not hold off Berrettini in the day's second tiebreak. The world number nine rifled a backhand down the line to complete the win.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Hugh Lawson)