IT was a moment the world feared it would never see. So perhaps it was appropriate that Andy Murray should stride on court in Cincinnati

yesterday with a smartphone to capture it for posterity.

Six months on from those tearful tributes in Australia and that epic defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut, the Scot was back in singles action on

the ATP Tour.

While his lack of sharpness was ultimately exploited by France’s

Richard Gasquet in a 6-4, 6-4

scoreline in this first-round match

at the Western and Southern Open over one hour and 45 minutes of

unforgiving Ohio heat and

humidity, that alone is cause for celebration.

This was the next step in a

rehabilitation process from January’s hip resurfacing procedure that

began with Murray hitting a ball against a wall at his local tennis club in Oxshott, Surrey. After five

tournaments as a doubles player – including Wimbledon last month – the Scot’s eagerly-anticipated return to singles action took the 32-year-old to a venue where he has recorded some of his favourite moments in his career to date.

Not only has Murray claimed the title here twice but, in 2006, as an eager, shaggy-haired 19-year-old, he racked up his first-ever victory against Roger Federer. While the venue was not full, there were plenty in

attendance who knew how big a deal this was for him. His friends Nick Kyrgios and Feliciano Lopez took seats in the stands as the 32-year-old, metal hip or not, attempted to roll back the years against a Frenchman who he has tormented in the past.

While all the data on his GPS tracker and such like had encouraged the Scot and his team to take the plunge, it is worth noting that it took Novak Djokovic some six months to get back to his best after his elbow injury, and Murray’s hip issue is an ailment of a different order entirely. Whether or not he decides it is wise to subject to the joint to the rigours of five-set play at the US Open which begins on August 26, this muscle memory on the match court is what the Scot needed.

It should also be noted that Gasquet, a man with his own injury woes to speak of, wasn’t exactly the ideal opponent first off the bat.

Coming off a run at the Rogers Cup in Montreal where he got the better of world No.5 Kei Nishikori, the flashy Frenchman jumped all over a

tentative opening service game from the Scot which began with a double fault only for Murray to roar back with three games in a row. This set was nip and tuck until a great

forehand by the Frenchman saw him break again for a lead at 4-3 which he never gave up.

Despite an early blip, there was even more to admire about how the Scot tackled the second set. Slowly, inexorably, he seemed to be rediscovering his best tennis, starting to hit his forehand more cleanly down the line and drag the Frenchman this way and that. He was starting to read Gasquet’s shots before he played them, starting to cover the courts to get to his drop shots.

You suspected the 33-year-old could crumble if Murray could put him under pressure, but the Scot couldn’t quite exert enough as the Frenchman served for the match. He was a matter of inches off target with a forehand that would have given him break back point. But the match was Gasquet’s when the Scot tugged an aggressive backhand into the tramlines.

So, what happens now? Well, in the short term, Murray must crunch the numbers all over again and decide whether it is wiser to give it a shot over five sets at Flushing Meadows or continue his recovery at a lower-key venue. This is not an easy decision.

Whether or not Glasgow in

mid-September at a tournament named the Murray Trophy in his honour could ever be called low-key, that would be a feasible alternative course of action if he opts out of the final major of the year.

Whatever happens that week, the Scot is emboldened enough about the way things have been going to sign up for two tournaments in the weeks that follow it on the Asian sub-

continent, first in Zhuhai and then at the China Open in Beijing. There is an intriguing possibility of him

playing for Great Britain in the

inaugural Davis Cup finals in Madrid in November.

The Scot was keeping his cards close to his chest as he made a swift exit afterwards but this wasn’t bad for starters and he will need to be patient upon his return. The Cincinnati Kid doesn’t hold all the aces just yet, but he is at least back in the pack.