Far from Australian Open, Murray falls in final of Italian Challenger event

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Murray was originally planning to play in the Australian Open

Former world number one Andy Murray, forced to miss the Australian Open by a positive Covid-19 test, lost the final of the Biella Challenger event in Italy on Sunday.

The Scot, now ranked 125th, lost 6-2, 6-4 to 33-year-old Ukrainian Illya Marchenko, who is ranked 212th, in the hard-court event.

The indoor event in the foothills of the Italian Alps carried a modest overall purse of just under 45,000 euros ($54,000) compared to the $2.1 million on offer to the winner at Melbourne Park, 16,000km (9,942 miles) away, where Murray had planned to play.

The 33-year-old, a three-time Grand Slam winner (US Open 2012, Wimbledon 2013 and 2016), won four matches to reach the Biella final. There, against an opponent he had beaten at the Australian Open in 2011 and 2017, Murray could not even force a break point in an hour and a half of play.

Murray only played seven official matches in 2020 as he battled a pelvic injury which compromised his attempts to rebuild his career after hip surgery.

Murray, who had initially been given an Australian Open wildcard, was furious at missing the tournament and believes he became infected with Covid-19 at the National Tennis Centre in London, where most of Britain's elite tennis players trained during the pandemic.

He said he was "pretty ill" and had passed the virus onto his wife Kim and their three young children.

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