He's back: Britain's Andy Murray in a first-round loss to Richard Gasquet at Cincinnati -- Murray's first singles match after a seven-month injury absence

Cincinnati (AFP) - Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Richard Gasquet on Monday in his return to singles competition in Cincinnati following a seven-month hip injury lay-off.

The Scot hadn’t played a singles match since a five-set first-round exit at the Australian Open in January and feared his career was over.

Since undergoing right hip resurfacing surgery on January 28 he has slowly fashioned a return.

Murray has been playing doubles for the past two months, winning at Queen’s Club in London with Feliciano Lopez.

Gasquet, however, was too strong for the 32-year-old, who won the title in the US Open warm-up in Cincinnati in 2008 and 2011.

Gasquet ended a five-match skid against the Briton, now ranked 324th.

Murray, who opened the game with a double fault, and his forehand into the net gave Gasquet a match point that the 56th-ranked Frenchman converted when Murray sent a service return wide to end the match after 96 minutes.

Murray decided only last week to return to singles, possibly opening the door for an entry at the US Open starting in a fortnight.

Tentative at times, he finished with a respectable 20 winners but struck 28 unforced errors.

Gasquet is also making a return after injury, undergoing groin surgery in mid-January. He did not play a match until early May in Madrid.