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Tennys Sandgren beats Andy Murray on Monday night at the Winston-Salem Open.

Sandgren Downs Murray In Winston-Salem

Scot showed improvement from beginning of his comeback last week

Andy Murray isn't one for moral victories, but the Scot should be encouraged by his first-round match at the Winston-Salem Open, even if it ended in a loss.

American Tennys Sandgren beat Murray 7-6(8), 7-5 to advance to the second round at the ATP 250 tournament. Sandgren fought through a marathon 75-minute first set, but was broken while serving for the match at 5-4. Sandgren, however, broke right back and served it out on his second attempt.

“It was a great atmosphere. Everyone was super excited. Obviously, Andy, his career speaks for itself, so to have him here and playing and to be able to compete against him tonight was a pleasure,” Sandgren said. “The match itself was really close. The first set could have gone either way and to come out with it was a big relief... It was a tight two-set match, long and physical and I'm happy to come through.”

Murray was playing in only his second singles match since January at the Australian Open. After undergoing right hip surgery on 28 January, he began his singles comeback last week at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, falling to eventual semi-finalist Richard Gasquet in the first round.

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While both matches ended in defeat, Murray showed vast improvement against Sandgren. Gone were the tentative groundstrokes that dominated rallies against the crafty Gasquet, and Murray, who occasionally let balls go against the Frenchman, chased down everything he could and charged forward often against Sandgren. The American, however, was more than happy to pass Murray on the run and on the stretch.

"Some things were a bit better today I think. I was hitting the ball a bit cleaner than I did maybe in Cincinnati... I feel like I moved fairly well to some drop shots, which maybe last week I wasn't running to. So there's some good things in there but also some stuff I would like to do better," Murray said. "Physically, [I feel] OK considering, no pain, no discomfort. Just a little bit more tired than usual."

Murray, who accepted a late wild card, said he didn't fear losing during the initial stages of his comeback. 

"I'm quite aware of sort of where I'm at just now and what my level is. It's competitive at this level but it needs to be better," Murray said. "Maybe I need play a level down to get some matches and build my game up a little bit before I start playing on the Tour again.”

Murray will not compete at next week's US Open and is considering playing an ATP Challenger Tour event before heading to Asia for the tour-level swing there.

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Sandgren, No. 73 in the ATP Rankings, will next meet meet second seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada. In other action during a rain-soaked day of play, Duckhee Lee became the first deaf player to win an ATP Tour match, beating Swiss Henri Laaksonen 7-6(4), 6-1. Lee will next face third seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

Spain's Pablo Andujar beat Chilean Nicolas Jarry 6-4, 6-2 and will face countryman Feliciano Lopez, the 16th seed, for a place in the third round. Aussie Alexei Popyrin set up a #NextGenATP battle with Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic by beating Brazil's Thiago Monteiro 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(7). And American Bjorn Fratangelo was perfect against Israeli Amir Weintraub, advancing 6-0, 6-0 and will next meet #NextGenATP Frenchman Ugo Humbert, the 15th seed.

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