Andy Murray is still searching for his first singles win since hip surgery after losing 7-6 7-5 to Tennys Sandgren in the Winston-Salem Open first round.
The former world number one played with conviction and fluency in the first set, but lost it on a tie-break 10-8.
Despite recovering from a double break down to square the second set at 5-5, Britain’s Murray was broken again by American world number 73 Sandgren.
“I think there was some good stuff in there,” Murray, 32, told BBC Sport.
“I think my ball striking was better than last week. I hit quite a few more winners, came to the net quite a lot. Obviously I didn’t win but I do feel I was a bit more in control of what was happening out there.
“Physically I felt OK in the rallies, but I did notice in the second set that my first serve wasn’t as good, and I think maybe my legs were a little bit heavy at the end there.”
Last week, Murray lost in straight sets to Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati in his first singles match since January’s Australian Open.
His match against Sandgren started at 22:15 local time after a five-hour delay caused by heavy rain, thunder and lightning.
And even after completing the warm up, the players had to remain in their chairs for a further 15 minutes to wait for another light shower to pass and the court to be dried with towels and electric blowers.
Murray started superbly, forcing nine deuces and one break point in a 14-minute opening game before Sandgren eventually held his serve.
Both men served very well after that, but having saved three set points in the tie-break, Murray put a stretch volley into the net and Sandgren won it 10-8.
The first set lasted 74 minutes, but after making a poor start to the second, Murray struggled in vain to take the match into a decider.
Murray will not be in New York when the US Open gets underway on Monday, but he may instead play on the ATP Challenger Tour.
He will fly home from Winston-Salem on Tuesday but is actively considering whether to compete in next week’s Challenger event in Mallorca.
“I think for my body it would be a good thing because I do feel at that level I will be winning matches each week,” Murray added.
“And I think it would be good for my game as well because I’m not quite seeing the points as I used to. And if I can get more matches, I’ll start to work that out a little bit quicker, and see it faster.
“I would probably rather stay playing outdoors because the next couple of tour events I’m playing are outdoors in Asia, but I haven’t given it tonnes of thought.”
Dan Evans says his surprise decision to split with coach David Felgate was because the pair started to see “a few things differently”.
The British number two informed Felgate of his decision at the start of August, a few days after losing in the first round of the ATP event in Washington.
Evans enjoyed an excellent grass-court season, culminating in a third-round defeat to Joao Sousa at Wimbledon.
In February he reached his second ATP final in Delray Beach.
“I saw a few things different, I think, to the way he saw it,” Evans told BBC Sport at the Winston-Salem Open.
“At the end of the day I’m on the court, and it’s how I felt.
“It was amicable, no hard feelings. I sat down and said it was going to come to an end, and that was that.
“I wanted to go a different way and try something new. I’ve never had to do that before. It was not an easy conversation but it was better for me to say it there and then than carry on until the end of this trip, and waste this trip.
“I sort of felt that way as soon as I came back and we started again after Wimbledon. Maybe I lost my spark with him, but it just didn’t feel right, and I thought it needed to change.”
Evans and Felgate started working together after last year’s Wimbledon. The British Davis Cup player was outside the top 300 at the time, as he fought his way back from a doping ban, but now stands at 58 in the world.
Evans says he wants to play more aggressively in future, and will try to come forward towards the net, a little more.
“I thought, over the grass, I was pretty defensive and not really putting my game out there. I felt it was time for a new start – to make that change, and to play that way,” the 29 year old added.
The former British player Joshua Milton, who now coaches in San Diego, is assisting Evans in Winston-Salem this week. As the fifth seed, Evans was given a first-round bye and will play his second-round match on Tuesday.
Evans said he does not yet know who he will work with in future, but says Britain’s Davis Cup captain Leon Smith has agreed to help out where he can during the US Open, which begins on Monday.
On Monday he will play the American Tennys Sandgren in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open.
“All matches are difficult at this level, and when you’ve been out for a long time, and with the severity of the operation I had, it is going to take time,” Murray told BBC Sport.
“I’m not setting my expectations too high, but I do want to try and get matches in just now. So I’d like to get through a few matches here, and hopefully have a decent run.”
It is very hot, and very humid in North Carolina. Murray will play his first round match at about 19:00 local time, when the temperature will be 30C, but feel more like 37C.
Sandgren, 28, reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 Australian Open, and the fourth round of this year’s Wimbledon. But he has lost all three of the hard court matches he has played in North America since.
“He was brought up playing on the American hard courts, he’s a very good mover and he’s quick: a good athlete,” said Murray, who has never played Sandgren before.
“I practised with him a little bit when he was pretty young – him and another player, Ryan Williams, were brought in by Ivan Lendl to do some training with me – so I actually practised with him a bit when he was like 18 or 19 years old.”
The winner will play the second seed and world number 38 Denis Shapovalov in the second round.
The tournament is taking place at the Wake Forest Tennis Centre, which is right next to the 31,500-seater stadium where the Wake Forest college football team play their home games.
“The university and the facilities that they have over here are unbelievable,” Murray added.
“A few of my friends played college tennis over here and had a brilliant time and the assistant coach here is Chris Eaton, who played Davis Cup for Britain. He seems to love it here. It’s nice.”
Dan Evans is the only other British player in the singles here, and as the fifth seed has a bye into the second round.
But there is a strong British doubles contingent, including Joe Salisbury, who is seeded two with his American partner Rajeev Ram.
Cincinnati Masters semi-finalists Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski are also in the draw.
This is the final ATP event before the US Open begins on 26 August. Andy Murray has already said he will not play doubles in New York, so he can focus all his energies on singles once again.
Former world number one Andy Murray says he will play no part in this month’s US Open.
The 2012 champion had intended to play doubles in New York, but says “doubles is done for me for the time being”.
Instead, he will play singles at next week’s ATP event in Winston-Salem, before considering entering a tournament on the Challenger Tour during the US Open.
“I’m not going to play doubles at the US Open,” Murray told BBC Sport.
“My goal is to get back playing at the level that I want to on the singles court, and I’ve decided that I need to focus all my energies on that right now,” Murray added after he and Feliciano Lopez reached the doubles quarter-finals in Cincinnati.
“The US Open, doubles and mixed, can be another couple of weeks that you are slowing things down.”
Murray has taken the final wildcard for next week’s event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He will join Kevin Anderson, Denis Shapovalov, Tomas Berdych and Britain’s Dan Evans in the draw.
Most of the field are outside the world’s top 50, and some are outside the top 100, but Murray says he would have entered the qualifying event had he lost Thursday’s doubles match in Cincinnati.
“Because I want matches, and that’s what I need right now,” said Murray, who had career-saving hip surgery in January.
“It doesn’t feel like I need to play the main draw of every single tour event. I’ve hardly played the last couple of years and, having discussed with my team, after this week I think doubles is done for me for the time being.
“I need to focus my mind on getting matches on the singles court. There aren’t many tournaments between now and the end of the year.”
Once his week in Winston-Salem comes to an end, Murray will decide whether to play a Challenger event during the US Open, which starts on 26 August.
“It depends how Winston-Salem goes,” he said.
“The feeling I have had since my singles [his first for seven months, against Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati] was that I played decent, but that physically between now and the end of the year I want to get matches in so that for the beginning of next year, I’m feeling ready.
“So if I do well in Winston-Salem, I’ll know my level is good enough and I’m ready to win matches at tour level, but if not it makes sense to drop down a level and maybe play some smaller tournaments.”
The obvious event for Murray to enter would be the Challenger in New Haven in the second week of the US Open. The field there should be very strong, as many who lose in the first week in New York will choose to compete.
Murray’s other option is to return to the practice court, but given the amount of training and rehab he has done over the past couple of years, he says that is not a particularly attractive proposition.
Towards the end of September Murray will head to China, where he is due to play in Zhuhai and Beijing.
The Shanghai Masters in the following week is another option, after which Murray says he hopes to play “three or four events” indoors in Europe before the year is out.
“I have ambitions to get back on the singles court as well, and doubles is Jamie’s career, so it’s hard in that respect. But you also have the professional obligation to go out there and give your best effort and try and win against your brother,” Andy added.
The brothers could heed Serena Williams’ advice – she has played her sister Venus 30 times, and at Wimbledon told Andy to “literally look at the ground – don’t look at him at all”.
“I don’t think you’re ever really ready to go compete against your brother,” Jamie said after he and Skupski defeated the fifth-seeded Australian Open champions Mahut and Herbert.
“But it’s just something that we’ll both have to deal with. It’s not an easy thing to have to go through, but it’s only an hour and a half of our lives, so we can get through it I think.
“It is weird to look across the net and see your brother because you want each other to win every time they step on the court. And obviously you’re getting out there and affecting what he’s doing, and whether he’s going to win or lose.
“It’s not a natural thing to do, I would say, but it’s just the nature of our sport.”
Jamie’s partner Skupski faced his brother Ken in World Team Tennis last month, and says he felt “weird playing against him”.
Andy and Jamie frequently played singles against each other as juniors, and at times sibling rivalry boiled over.
Andy claims the nail on his left ring finger has never been the same since Jamie, tired of being taunted by his victorious younger brother, thumped him on the journey home.
“We were coming back from Solihull in the minibus,” Andy told BBC Sport in 2015.
“I’d beaten Jamie in the final, I think, of the Under 12s so basically I was winding him up about that and my hand was on the hand rest.
“We were sitting next to each other and he just basically punched me on the hand – I lost my fingernail, and I’ve still got the scars to show for it.”
The Murray brothers played together at the Washington Open earlier in August, losing in the quarter-finals.
Three-time Grand Slam winner Andy, 32, and Spanish partner Lopez were crowned champions at Queen’s Club in June and beat fourth seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in the first round in Cincinnati.
Seven-time winner Roger Federer lost in straight sets to 21-year-old Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev in the third round of the Cincinnati Masters.
The world number 70 won 6-3 6-4 in just over an hour to set up a quarter-final against compatriot Daniil Medvedev.
Swiss 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer, ranked third, plans to compete at the US Open later this month.
Defeat means he will have played just two matches in preparation, after an opening win over Juan Ignacio Londero.
On Rublev, Federer said: “He was excellent today. He didn’t give me anything. It was tough for me but an excellent match for him. I was impressed.
“I just would have hoped for an overall better performance. He was mixing it up nicely on the serve and on the return he was really consistent.”
In a first meeting between the pair, Federer initially broke back at 2-0 down in the first set but Rublev established a 4-1 lead from which the Swiss could not recover. He again had no answers as the Russian made the decisive break to lead 4-3 in the second.
After his biggest career win to date, Rublev said: “It is such an amazing feeling when you’re playing a legend like Roger and all these people supporting him until the end. One day I hope I’m going to feel the same.
“Today I was just trying to do my best and was thinking in my head that I need to play every point until the end no matter what.”