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Murray returns with a whitewash

Everything Andy Murray does this week at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha will be judged in terms of how his back responds to the stress of competition, with the Australian Open now just 12 days away.

Andy Murray hits a forehand on his way to a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Mousa Shanan Zayed of Qatar yesterday. Picture: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

A little more than three months after undergoing an operation to cure back ­trouble that had been lingering for the previous 18 months, Murray raced into round two with a 6-0, 6-0 demolition of the Qatari wildcard Mousa Shanan Zayed that took just 37 minutes. It was the fastest win of Murray's career but he will not read too much into the manner of the victory, for this was a mis-match in the strictest sense of the word.

Thrown in at the deep end two years ago, Zayed had lost 6-0, 6-0 to James Ward, while he managed to win just three games against Gael Monfils of France last year. Had Murray dropped any games against the 19-year-old world No 2129, he might have received a bit of ribbing from Ward but, from the first game, it was obvious that, unless he gave one away, it wasn't going to happen.

It is not Zayed's fault that he was given a wildcard and he later described the experience as "incred­ible" but it is arguable that the wild card would have been better in the hands of someone with a little more experience. As it was, Murray got to ease through the gears with the ­minimum of fuss, serving within himself and hitting with plenty of power when he felt the need.

At 37 minutes, it was eight minutes longer than the fastest three-set match on the men's Tour, recorded by Greg Rusedski against Germany's Carsten Arriens in Sydney in 1996.

Murray took the chance to get some extra practice on an outside court afterwards but was quietly satisfied with the way things went, especially having played, and won, in the doubles event the previous day. "It's good to be back," Murray said.

The step up in class will come quickly, though, when he plays Florian Mayer of Germany, a man whose unorthodox playing style has troubled him in the past and is likely to tax his back a good deal more than his first opponent.

The beauty of Murray having a back operation is that it has chimed with thousands of armchair sportsmen all over the country who, if not quite in the same bracket as the Scot in terms of sporting prowess, can sympathise with his pain.

The reason for having the operation, Murray reiterated this week, was so that he would no longer ­experience pain when playing and his surgeons are confident that the operation was a success.

Only when he is in the real heat of the battle, particularly in that of the Melbourne sun, will we know how close to 100% he is and it was interesting to hear Roger Federer, a fellow back sufferer, say he would be keen to see how Murray reacts.

Meanwhile, the Englishman Dan Evans gave Ernests Gulbis a scare when he took the second set of their first-round match. Gulbis eventually won 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 but Evans will take heart, and more ranking points, from having won through qualifying to make the main draw.

Rafael Nadal, the world No.1, hit the ground running with a 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) win over Lukas Rosol, the man who beat him so stunningly at Wimbledon in 2012.

Jamie Murray and John Peers signed off 2013 with a fine 6-3, 6-4 win over Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen in the first round of the Brisbane International. In the same event, Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins will renew their partnership when they meet Grigor Dimitrov and Jeremy Chardy in round one, 12 months after Hutchins was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

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