Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has lost his comeback match from injury in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi Tennis Championship.
Murray, who has dropped to number four in the rankings, lost 7-5, 6-3 to wolrd number four Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 72 minutes on Thursday, after returning from a three-month layoff following back surgery.
The court was very quick and needed quick reaction. Tsonga was definitely sharper
Tsonga will meet Novak Djokovic, the world number two, in the semi-finals of the exhibition event on Friday, while world number one Rafael Nadal will take on Spanish compatriot David Ferrer in the other semi.
World number three Ferrer, who last week dumped his longtime coach Javier Piles, beat Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 7-5, 6-1.
Murray will get more match practice when he meets Wawrinka in a fifth-place play-off.
The Scot, who had not played since Davis Cup in mid-September, kept pace with Tsonga until 5-5.
Even to that point, Murray’s rustiness was obvious with accumulating unforced errors.
After Tsonga broke Murray for the first time, he stayed in charge.
Murray admitted he was sluggish upon his return.
“The court was very quick and needed quick reaction,” he said.
“Tsonga was definitely sharper.”
Tsonga has had his own injury problems this year and did not compete in the US Open because of a knee injury that had forced him to withdraw during his second-round match at Wimbledon.
“I was feeling fine with my body and the knee, and this win over someone like Murray is going to give me great confidence as I start the new season,” Tsonga said.
The event features six of the world’s top 10 men’s singles players.