© Reuters. Tennis – Australian Open – First Round

(Reuters) – Britain’s former world number one Andy Murray has been awarded a wildcard for February’s Australian Open, tournament director Craig Tiley said on Sunday.

The main draw entry for the first Grand Slam of 2021 comes two years after Murray, the five-time runner-up in Melbourne, played what he feared would be his final professional match there, losing in the first round to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.

“We welcome Andy back to Melbourne with open arms,” Tiley said.

“His retirement was an emotional moment and seeing him come back, having undergone major surgery and built himself back up to get on to the tour again, will be a highlight of AO 2021.”

Three-time Grand Slam champion Murray went on to have hip resurfacing surgery in January last year but made his comeback to win the Antwerp title nine months later.

He missed most of the 2020 season due to complications with his hip and struggled for form on his return after the COVID-19 hiatus, suffering a second-round defeat in the U.S. Open before falling in the opening round at Roland Garros.

The 33-year-old will begin his 2021 season at the Delray Beach Open next month after accepting a wildcard for the ATP 250 tournament.

The Australian Open has been pushed back three weeks to start on Feb. 8 due to COVID-19 measures.

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