ANDY Murray’s ATP Tour comeback ended with defeat by Florian Mayer in the second round of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.
The Wimbledon champion looked to be easing through when he led by a set and 3-0 but German Mayer won 11 of the last 14 games to triumph 3-6 6-4 6-2.
Murray is not scheduled to play another tournament before the Australian Open and the early exit in Doha leaves him short of competitive matches ahead of the year’s first grand slam
Mayer, ranked 40th in the world, is a tricky customer with an unorthodox game but Murray had won all their previous three meetings.
He won his first ATP Tour match since back surgery on Tuesday but it was little more than a gentle hit for the 26-year-old as he dispatched outclassed local wild card Mousa Zayed 6-0 6-0.
Mayer was a much bigger test but for a long time it looked like one Murray would negotiate without too many problems.
Two break points went begging in the third game but the Scot powered a return two games later to break for 3-2.
He had to save a break point of his own in the next game before another return winner gave him the set.
Murray has made a habit of starting the season strongly, winning the title in Doha in 2008 and 2009 and repeating the feat in Brisbane the last two years.
He returned to Qatar this year because it allowed him to get extra matches in at last week’s exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi.
There was no let-up from Murray as he raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set, but Mayer went on the offensive and withstood a barrage of pressure to level.
He then made it four games in a row to move ahead in the set, taking advantage of Murray’s obvious frustration.
The British number one stopped the rot to force his opponent to serve for the set, but Mayer was on a roll and clinched it to love.
And the 30-year-old German continued to keep Murray on the back foot with another break at the start of the decider, time and again forcing his opponent out of court with angled backhands.
Murray could make no inroads on the Mayer serve, and he began to look very weary as the German broke again to lead 5-2 before polishing off a notable victory.
• In his first round match against Mousa Shanan Zayed, Murray barely had to break sweat as he raced to a double-bagel 6-0, 6-0 win.
The Wimbledon champion needed just 38 minutes to dispatch his hapless 19-year-old opponent, the wild card ranked 2,129 in the world.