WATCH: Andy Murray defeats Dominic Thiem in the first round of the 2022 Mutua Madrid Open.

Andy Murray made a point of stopping and talking to Dominic Thiem at the net after his 6-3, 6-4 win over the Austrian at the Mutua Madrid Open on Monday.

“Great to see you back,” Murray said to Thiem, who is making his first tentative steps onto the tour after being sidelined for a year with injuries. “Keep going. It will take a lot of time, but you’ll be fine.”

Murray would know. The soon-to-be-35-year-old has already retired and unretired from tennis once, and he’s still crawling his way back up the tennis totem pole three years after undergoing a second hip surgery. Coming into Madrid, Murray had lost in the second round at his past five tournaments, and was 78th in the rankings.

Today he had the rare chance to play someone who is even farther away from his top form than he is. Thiem hasn’t won a tour match in nearly 12 months, and was 0-3 since returning to match play in March. The 28-year-old is recovering from a wrist injury, and it showed today in his forehand.

Thiem moved well, he hit his backhand well, and generally looked like the same person who won a Grand Slam title two years ago. But he struggled to keep his forehand in the court, especially on important points. Serving at 2-3 in the first set, he missed three forehands and was broken. Down set point in the first set, he hit a forehand long. Serving at 1-1 in the second set, he hit two forehands into the net and was broken. And when he had a chance to get back in the match with Murray serving at 4-3, deuce, in the second set, Thiem made two more forehand errors.


Murray will next face No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov next in Madrid.

Murray will next face No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov next in Madrid.

“There are certain shots that are a little more difficult, like when the ball is low and you really have to use your wrist to get the ball up and down,” Murray said when he was asked about Thiem’s performance. “That shot was certainly inconsistent.”

As for Murray’s own play, he controlled the points with his customary variety of shots. He served and volleyed. He used his drop shot. He won the crosscourt rallies, and looked sharp off both wings. He did what he could to give Thiem a chance to miss. He sounded as pleased with his game as he had since the start of the season.

“I thought I moved very well. Served well,” said Murray, who hadn’t played a match on clay in two years, and hadn’t won one on the surface in five. “I played smart tennis, I think.”

Afterward, Murray celebrated with a yell and a first-pump. He had reunited with Ivan Lendl in Florida this spring, and after initially saying he would skip the clay season, he changed his mind and came to Madrid.

“I put in lots and lots of work this last little period,” he said. “I wanted to go out and put on a good performance…I’m definitely moving better and moved very well tonight.”

“I didn’t know if I was still necessarily capable of playing at that level on this surface,” he added. “That’s why I was happy.”

Can Murray match that level in his next match, and avoid a sixth straight second-round defeat? He’ll have to do it against a more in-form player in Denis Shapovalov, and one who beat him easily on grass at Wimbledon last year. Maybe Murray will be happy he has a chance to face him on clay this time.