Andy Murray is up and running at Wimbledon. He took just an hour and 42 minutes to beat Liam Broady 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 on the Stockport 22-year-old’s first visit to Centre Court, and the 2013 champion could hardly have played better.
The winner got a good workout, the loser a cheque for £30,000 and his day in the sun – or gloom, as the clouds rolled in on Tuesday afternoon. As they headed for the locker room, the roof began to rumble into action, an appropriate drawing of the curtains.
Murray’s serve clicked, his groundstrokes buzzed and he moved like a gazelle, striking 31 clean winners from all parts to all parts. The final points difference, 95-64, told the story well enough, although Broady fought all the way. He put love-30 on Murray a few of times – twice in the third set, when he also got two break points in the fifth game – but generally did not threaten the Murray serve. Like James Ward’s match against Novak Djokovic on day one, this was an occasion more than a contest.
“I served well,” Murray said. “Offensively I did pretty well, defensively I could have done a little better. It’s not that easy playing someone you know so well. We’re both just trying to win, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
“Liam played better as the match went on, definitely got better and fought right the way through to the end. It was a good experience for him. The crowd is always very fair here, and they always get behind both players. Liam got good support and got a nice ovation when he left the court.”
Broady, in the draw with a wildcard, did his best, but it was never going to be enough to contain Murray, especially in his heightened state of early-round awareness after the travails of Roland Garros, where he lost focus in the first two rounds. After 25 minutes here on Tuesday, Broady was a set down and drowning.
If there was a degree of sympathy for the left-hander, it sprang from his earnest efforts and Icelandic refusal to bow to the odds, rather than any meaningful headway he made on the scoreboard. “Come on, England!” a Wimbledon wit shouted at the start of the second, comic relief for those still wounded by the football disaster of the night before, but the Scot now hurting Sassenach ambitions would not be distracted from his task.
Hadrian’s Wall distinctions aside, this was the first all-British match in a slam since Tim Henman beat Greg Rusedski in the first round of the US Open in 2006. But that was an even fight. With the best will in the world, this was not. The last British match in the men’s draw at Wimbledon was 15 years ago, when Barry Cowan beat Mark Hilton in the first round, and Henman defeated Martin Lee in the second.
Those yawning gaps only serve to underline the parlous state of the British game. The men’s game beyond Murray is on the mend – through the efforts of Kyle Edmund and Aljaz Bedene (both already out in the first round) – but there is such a long way to go to get back to something like respectability. Further emphasising the paucity of quality at the top end, this was Murray’s third match against a British opponent in three weeks, having beaten Edmund and Bedene at Queen’s – and those were his first against home-grown opposition in a decade.
When Broady double-faulted to hand Murray a 3-1 lead in the second, they had been playing barely 40 minutes. The only danger for the world No2 was the insidious one: complacency – and his returning coach, Ivan Lendl, looking down from the box here for the first time since Murray won the title in 2013, reinforced his view during their conversations of the past week, that relaxing against outclassed opposition was not an option.
He moved seamlessly to 4-1, and there were sympathetic cheers for Broady when he held serve. The crowd wanted a fight of some description and they had not really got one to this point.
Last year on his slam debut, Broady beat the Australian Marinko Matosevic in the first round, then lost to David Goffin in the second. While the world No235 was pleased to share a stage with Murray, he would have wished for a better showing.
He was rightly pleased with a withering backhand winner to hold for 3-5, pumping the air with his fist – less so with the pressured stroke that billowed the net in the ninth game to give Murray a two-set lead in under an hour.
There was admirable resistance from Broady in the third – at 46 minutes, easily the longest session – before Murray completed the public workout with a delicate chip to end a closing and quality exchange.
The man seeded to meet Murray in the semi-finals, Stan Wawrinka, met stiff resistance from the American teenager Taylor Fritz before he finally asserted his dominance in a 7-6, 6-1, 6-7, 6-4 victory.
The Swiss fourth seed was far from his best, with his groundstrokes uncharacteristically erratic, but his one-handed backhand and experience were enough to see off the 18-year-old making his tournament debut.
Bedene, the British No2, was unable to spring a surprise as he lost in straight sets to Richard Gasquet. The Slovenian-born Bedene, who moved to Hertfordshire in 2008, has yet to play his best tennis on grass and he struggled to trouble the Frenchman, who won 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
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