Murray loses in Australian Open setback

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Andy Murray has endured a frustrating start to his season, losing in the first round of the Melbourne Summer Set to world No.76 Facundo Bagnis.

The former world No.1 and three-time major winner was far from his best, struggling on serve in an error-strewn 6-3 5-7 6-3 loss to the Argentinian.

Murray has accepted a wildcard into the Australian Open, three years after indicating his appearance in Melbourne was likely to be his last due to impending hip surgery.

The five-times Melbourne Park finalist has arrived back in Australia healthy and hopeful of a competitive showing, following a win over emerging world No.10 Jannik Sinner in November.

Murray also reached the final of an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi in December, where he was beaten by Andrey Rublev, and took current world No.4 Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets in last year's US Open.

That form eluded him on Tuesday, though, the Scot slamming his racquet in frustration midway through the deciding set.

Murray, now ranked No.134 in the world, tearfully admitted the 2019 Australian Open may be his last tournament before an ill-timed bout of COVID-19 forced him into a late withdrawal last year.

But, at 34, the Brit is back for an unlikely 14th shot at the title.

Meanwhile, Australian 20-year-old Rinky Hijikata came from a set and a break down, saving match point, to beat Henri Laaksonen 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 and qualify for the main draw.

His first top-100 win earnt him a berth in a maiden ATP Tour main draw event and came after an impressive straight sets defeat of American Denis Kudla in the opening round of qualifying.

Currently studying and playing US college tennis at the University of North Carolina, Hijikata earned All-American honours last season.

Hijikata also claimed four ITF Futures singles titles during 2021 and rose to a career-high No.367 in November.

That caught the attention of Lleyton Hewitt, who invited Hijikata to join Australia's Davis Cup team as hitting partner last year.

In a stroke of fortune, Hijikata has been drawn to face fellow qualifier Maxime Cressy in the first round.

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