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Former World No. 1 Andy Murray takes a big step in his journey back to peak form on Tuesday with victory over Matteo Berrettini in Beijing.

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Nitto ATP Finals hopes Berrettini, Monfils fall

Andy Murray took another big step in the right direction on Tuesday at the China Open.

Eight months on from right hip surgery, the former World No. 1 battled past Nitto ATP Finals contender Matteo Berrettini 7-6(2), 7-6(7) in two hours and two minutes. Murray will next face compatriot Cameron Norrie in the second round.

“I feel like I'm hitting the ball pretty clean,” Murray said. “Things are going in the right direction.”

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Berrettini could not convert two set points at 6/5 and 7/6 in the second-set tie-break, when quick hands and fine volleying from Murray got him out of trouble. Berrettini had led 5-3 in the first set and 2-0 in the second set before Murray fought back en route to his highest-ranked victory since September 2018, when the Briton beat then World No. 11 David Goffin at the Shenzhen Open.

Berrettini, who has compiled a 29-8 record since 22 April, had been hoping to add valuable points in his bid to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 10-17 November.

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The 23-year-old, who is eighth in the 2019 ATP Race To London, joined fellow hope Gael Monfils—just 60 points behind the Italian in 10th position—as a first-round casualty.

Seventh seed Monfils, who competed at the season finale in 2016, suffered at the hands of American John Isner, who struck 22 aces, in a 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory over two hours and eight minutes. Monfils had led by a set and 5/3 in the second-set tie-break.

Earlier in the day, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime got the better of Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-4 to set up a clash against second-seeded German Alexander Zverev, the defending champion at the Nitto ATP Finals, who sits 11th in the 2019 ATP Race To London.

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