Dominic Thiem during his only Andalucía Open match.. / josele

Wawrinka and Thiem struggle in their return at the Andalucía Open

The expected return of two former world top 3 players after many months of absence at the AnyTech365 Andalucía Open in Marbella resulted in defeats

PEDRO LUIS ALONSO MALAGA.

Marbella became the centre of the tennis world on Monday. Despite the fact that it's a simple 125 Challenger tournament, the AnyTech365 Andalucía Open was the stage that two ex-world number threes chose to return to after months of absence. The two Grand Slam winners during the reign of the 'Big Three' suffered two reality checks with defeats and early exits.

There was a lot more expectation riding on 28-year-old Austrian, Dominic Thiem. After 17 ATP titles (including the 2020 US Open), he entered a slump in 2021. In June, he played in Mallorca, where he had to retire from the tournament after injuring his wrist, which has been postponing his return ever since.

Monday's game proved that the Austrian is still far from his best self. However, he still ranks 50th in the ATP ranking. He was favourite going into the Marbella-based tournament and his first test was against Argentinian Pedro Cachín, currently 228th. He now adds to his modest trophy cabinet a win against Thiem, which was more than deserved. The Austrian did show glimpses of quality, but they remained glimpses, with no consistency and with a lot of unforced errors.

Swiss player, Stanislas Wawrinka (232nd) also suffered on his return. He was ranked 20th when his inactivity began, though in 2014 he was ranked 3rd. He played on the Manolo Santana court against Elias Ymer (132nd) in his first appearance since March 2021 on what was also his 37th birthday. He got the match off to a slow start, quickly going 3-0 down before losing the first set. It seemed like he was going to pull off a comeback as he served, being 4-1 up in the second set, but ultimately wasted his chance of winning.

And so, the two main stars and attractions to the Andalucía Open were out before the tournament really began, with its final stages taking place this weekend.