Any match against an Australian is always going to be tough and Andy Murray’s third meeting with James Duckworth was always going to be tricky for the former world No.1 and so it proved.
Obviously I’m getting on a bit so I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll get to play on this court, so I want to make the most of every time I get to come out here. Hopefully I’ll get another match on here in a couple of days. Andy Murray
Ironically both were recovering from hip surgery albeit Duckworth’s was more recent but didn’t involve a hip replacement! Nonetheless the Australian 30-year-old had undergone nine surgeries in the past decade which has hampered his career.
Even so Murray was favourite to go through but was unable to stamp his authority on the Aussie in the early part of the match and for a while, his fans were understandably concerned as his serve proved ineffective against the world No. 74 who was undaunted to be playing on Centre Court for the first time.
Fans needn’t have worried for Murray is clearly on a mission at this year’s Championships having made it a priority in his schedule to the extent that he only played one clay court event this year and skipped the French Open to concentrate on grass.
He re-engaged Ivan Lendl as coach and reached the final of the Stuttgart Open where unfortunately he picked up a strain which prevented him from appearing at Queen’s.
That problem seems to be behind him for, after dropping the first set, he recovered his poise to win the next three and progress as expected into the second round 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4.
There were plenty of flashes of the old Murray with some new ingredients thrown into his game. He solved the serving problem by reducing the speed of the delivery and ensuring he hit the mark more consistently.
A delicate drop shot brought up break point in the third and it was converted when Duckworth went long following a punishing rally which were frequent features of the match.
Murray backed up the break with a hold which included an underarm delivery straight from the Kyrgios coaching manual!
Duckworth did make the return, but then made a mess of an overhead as Murray claimed the point.
By now the light was fading so before the fourth set got underway, the roof was closed and it wasn’t long before Murray wrapped it up thanks to two double faults from Duckworth in the ninth game handing him a crucial break and allowing him to serve out for a satisfying victory.
“I did well to rebound after the first set,” Murray said later and referring to Duckworth’s efforts, added: “He likes playing on the grass and he was playing very well.
“Once I started to find my returns a little bit more as the match went on, I started to feel more comfortable. But I did well to get through it.”
He hopes to do better in his next match when he takes on the big-serving John Isner, the 20th seed from the US who hammered his way past Frenchman Enzo Couacaud, a qualifier, 6-7(6) 7-6(3) 4-6 6-5 7-5.
“There’s always nerves, pressure, butterflies and stress, and it was a longer build-up for me because of the ab injury, so it’s great to get out here and get a win under my belt,” he continued.
“It was a longer build-up for me than usual because of the ab injury I had after Stuttgart so I’ve done a lot of practising here, I’ve been at the venue a lot the last couple of weeks.
“So it was great for me to get out here, get a win under my belt and hopefully play better from here on.
“Obviously I’m getting on a bit so I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll get to play on this court, so I want to make the most of every time I get to come out here.
“Hopefully I’ll get another match on here in a couple of days.”