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Murray battles past Mahut

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 15-06-2016 skysports.com

Getty

Getty
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Andy Murray began his quest for a fifth Queen's Club title with a 7-6 7-6 victory over in-form Nicolas Mahut at the Aegon Championships on Tuesday. 

With Stan Wawrinka following Monday's big-name casualty Richard Gasquet in crashing out of the tournament at the first hurdle, top seed Murray was given a scare by the 34-year-old in blustery conditions that followed a two-and-a-half hour rain delay.

But the British number one will continue his preparations for Wimbledon with a first career meeting against British number two Aljaz Bedene who chalked up an impressive three-set win over France's Benoit Paire who is ranked some 35 places above Bedene.

Mahut, a former Queens finalist having lost to Andy Roddick in 2007, was a dangerous first-round draw for Murray having claimed the fourth title of his career on Monday in the rain-delayed Ricoh Open - all four coming on grass.

And so it proved, as the Frenchman grabbed the first break of serve. However, Murray hit back immediately, with the match staying on serve until the tie-break which the world number two eventually clinched 10-8 after both men had seen set points go begging.

Murray was beginning the defence of the title he won for a fourth time last year and was playing his first grass-court tennis of 2016 - and the work-out was thorough, with Mahut's experience proving a tough test.

The second set began in similar fashion, with the 34-year-old Frenchman breaking in the fourth game and holding his serve to lead 4-1 at the change of ends, which prompted Murray to voice his concern at the slippery nature of the grass courts.

Mahut's serve-volley game was flowing nicely and Murray's frustration was evident, despite the presence of returning mentor Ivan Lendl to his players' box.

However Murray reeled off eight straight points to break back and hold serve comfortably to level the set at 5-5.

Mahut stopped the rot to lead 6-5 and raised his game to take a 15-40 lead on the Murray serve and earn two set points. The Scot saved the first and a booming first serve took the game to deuce.

After Murray wasted his first game point, Mahut carved out another set point but three strong first serves saw Murray hold and force a second tie-break.

An immediate mini-break gave Murray the initiative and he raced into a 3-0 lead before a delicious drop shot got Mahut on the board. But when the Frenchman followed that by pushing a backhand wide, he gifted Murray a three-point cushion.

Murray eased home with little trouble, sealing the victory at the first opportunity having earned himself five match points.

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