Nervy start for Murray
Image © Getty Images
SIR Andy Murray heeded his own advice to wake up as he struggled through his opening Grand Slam encounter as world No.1 in the soporific heat of Melbourne.
I felt nervous beforehand, but I get that before all Slams.
Top seed Murray defeated Illya Marchenko 7-5 7-6 6-2 in the first round of the Australian Open to seal a surprise date with Russian teenage whizz-kid Andrey Rubley, who stunned the experienced Yen-Hsun Lu.
And he was joined in the second round by compatriot Dan Evans but Aljaz Bedene was unable to complete a hat-trick of British victories on Day One of the first Slam of the year.
MurrayÈs Ukrainian opponent refused to lie down and present the superstar with a smooth path as Murray began his bid to lift the title for the first time after five final disappointments. The Scot showed several signs of frustration and had troubles with his first serve in the bright sunlight.
It took the 29-year-old close to three hours to dismiss the world-ranked 95 in what had been seen as a comfortable warm-up for the player who had ascended to the summit for the first time at the ATP World Tour finals at the 02 Arena last month.
The double Wimbledon and Olympic champion produced three double faults and an unforced error on his forehand to lose the opening game before battling back.
But he was broken again serving for the set in the ninth game, forcing Murray to up his game to take the opening set.
Murray spluttered again in the second set, uncharacteristically slow moving around the court and self-critical of his own display.
MarchenkoÈs big forehand helped him take charge of it before Murray came back to take the set into its tie-break in which he again upped his performance.
The set took 1hr.16min before the British No.1 sealed to clinch a 2-0 lead.
His 29-year-old opponentÈs resistance had been broken and Murray completed the victory which kept him on course for his fourth Slam.
Murray said: "It was tough conditions. The on-court temperature was in the high 30s, which wasn’t easy.
"I didn’t feel any extra pressure playing my first Grand Slam as the world number one. I felt nervous beforehand, but I get that before all Slams.
"I always feel that bit of extra nerves and bit of extra pressure because these are the tournaments that often you work towards. They’re the biggest tournament for tennis players. It would be a bad sign if you weren’t coming in nervous so I treat it as a good sign.
"Being nervous shows me that I want to play well and that I’m up for it. Normally nerves tend to make me feel better or play better but I found it tough on Monday in harsh conditions.
"The crowd were good. Sometimes in day sessions, when it’s hot as it was, it’s not easy for people to sit out in the sun for that long. There was a great atmosphere and lot of people out there watching."
He added: "I don’t think it was the best match. The conditions were pretty different to what we’ve been practising in.
"Last week’s been pretty cool. When it’s like that, the ball is bouncing a bit lower and it is a bit easier to control. I was a bit tentative because of that.
"And I didn’t serve that well either. So you end up having to work really hard on a lot of your service games when it’s like that."
Image © Getty Images
Evans was in confident mood as he dismissed Argentine Facundo Bagnis 7-6 6-3 6-1.
He was forced to save three set points in the first-set tiebreak at 6-3, before getting his nose in front.
Evans broke the world No.51 in the opening game of the second set and his game flowed, no doubt buoyed by his run to the Sydney International final in his previous tournament. He seemed to be seeing the ball as if it was a football.
He broke the left hander to go on and take the second set.
He then rushed to a 3-0 lead in the second. Bagnis held and then forced only his second break point at 3-1 before Evans held and cruised through for a date with top-tenner Marin Cilic of Croatia.
Image © Getty Images
British No.4 Bedene suffered a 7-6 7-5 0-6 6-3 reverse against Estrella Burgos.
He led the 36-year-old Dominican veteran 5-2 in the first set and his opponent went on to take a two-set lead.
Bedene looked to have turned the tide when he whitewashed Burgos in the third set but succumbed in the fourth after 3hr..9min.
Quotes from the BBC