Murray wins season-opener in Italy, 16,000km away from Australian Open

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Andy Murray began his season in Italy after a positive coronavirus test ruled him out of the Australian Open

Five-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray began his season Tuesday with a 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-3 victory over Germany's Maximilian Marterer in the second-tier Challenger event at Biella in northern Italy.

Instead of competing with his peers 16,000km (9,942 miles) away in Melbourne, Murray received a wildcard into the indoor tournament after a positive Covid-19 test left him unable to travel to Australia for the year's first Grand Slam.

The event in the foothills of the Italian Alps carries 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.

Three-time major winner Murray, now ranked 124 after battling a pelvic injury which had compromised his attempts to rebuild his career after hip surgery, only played seven official matches in 2020.

The former world number one, 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.

Murray, 33, revealed he was "pretty ill" and had passed the virus onto his wife Kim and their three young children.

The former Wimbledon and US Open champion said he was convinced he picked up the virus at the National Tennis Centre, raising questions about Covid protocols at a facility where most of Britain's elite tennis players trained during the pandemic.

However, the Lawn Tennis Association insisted in a statement that "stringent and appropriate restrictions" had been applied.

mw/td