Andy Murray reported his hip “felt good” as he hopped from one maverick to another. The Wimbledon champion began his defence by battering the entertaining if outclassed Alexander Bublik 6-1 6-4 6-2 to win in a rain-interrupted encounter on Centre Court.
He’s physically incredible. If he’s struggling with injury and he runs like this, imagine how he’s going to run when he doesn’t have any problems Alexander Bublik
And it sealed a date with another character in Dustin Brown, with his dreadlocks and flamboyant style.
After a week of medical updates surrounding his injury, world No.1 Murray looked more like his old self on court. Moving freely and appearing comfortable.
He was solid and, even though he is his own biggest critics, felt he did “pretty well” in stark contrast to his first-round exit against little-known Australian Jordan Thompson while defending his Queen’s crown two weeks ago.
The 30-year-old Brit said: “I played pretty good. Moved quite well. It’s not the easiest match to play because of the way he plays. There’s not loads of rhythm. He’s kind of doing different stuff on each point. He served some huge, huge serves on first and second serves. He was hitting some 130- mile-an-hour second serves, which you don’t really see much these days.
“Just kind of going for his shots. Wasn’t loads of rhythm. But I hit the ball well. I don’t feel like I made too many unforced errors. I hit the ball pretty clean, got through a tough moment at the end of the second set, did pretty well.
“My hip felt good. It’s a little bit sore, but I was moving really good on the court. That’s the most important thing. If you’re in a little bit of pain, but you can still run as you normally do, that doesn’t affect how you play. It’s when it’s affecting your movement and some of the shots that you play when it becomes a problem.
“Against Alexander it certainly wasn’t the case at all. So I’m really positive about that because it’s the most amount of points I played in a match since obviously since my match against Jordan Thompson. I haven’t played sets like that in practice really either. It was really positive.’
Murray even had a laugh off court with his opponent in two brief rain delays.
He said: “We were waiting to go out the beginning of the third set. I think I had just broken him. When I got interviewed by him in Indian Wells earlier in the year, I think I spoke to him right before the interview, I asked him how his match had gone there.
“He said, ‘Oh, I served like 20 double-faults’. He asked me if I had any advice for him in the interview. I said, ‘Try not to serve 20 double-faults’. Then he said to me just before he went on, he said, ‘Yeah, thanks for the advice about not serving 20 double-faults’. I said, ‘You served a few’. He said, ‘Yeah, I think I’m only on about ten right now’. I said, ‘Well, there’s still time to get to 20’. But, yeah, it was just funny. It’s rare that you speak to someone, like, during a match. Just asked him how he liked Centre Court, all that stuff, yeah. Just had a little chat.”
The expectations were high that Murray would swat away the lucky loser from Kazakstan, even with any physical problems.
And any latent fears of an upset were soon put to rest as Murray got to grips with his opponent, ranked 135, early on and refused to release it.
Bublik, 20, helped him with some erratic shots while winning over the crowd with his entertaining manner, even shaking hands with the umpire and then pressing his fist against Murray’s as a sign of respect before the match started.
Murray’s unforgettable 2016 on court – winning the Olympics and at ATP World Tour finals as well as Wimbledon, was buoyed by the birth of his first child Sophia Olivia. Perhaps the birth of his second, announced on the eve of The Championships, might do the same after a roller-coaster first half to the year attempting to stay at the top of the ATP rankings. Murray did not cause his spectating wife Kim any undue concerns.
And he certainly impressed Bublik.
The Kazakhstan native, in just his seventh Tour-level match, said: “Was he struggling? No. He was playing good. Didn’t show anything. Playing solid. Running everything. Some guys you play with injury are calling medicals and he was not. He gave his best. That’s what you should do on Centre Court every time… was inspiring for me.
“He’s physically incredible. If he’s struggling with injury and he runs like this, imagine how he’s going to run when he doesn’t have any problems.”