LONDON (AP) ― It had been, famously, more than 75 years since a British man arrived at Wimbledon as the defending champion.
So Andy Murray took a moment ― and, really, only a moment ― to take in the sights and sounds Monday at Centre Court as nearly 15,000 spectators, including Shaquille O’Neal up in the Royal Box, rose to greet him with a raucous standing ovation.
Murray’s parents and grandparents were present. So, of course, was his much-discussed recent choice as coach, Amelie Mauresmo. The other player, 105th-ranked David Goffin of Belgium, was little more than a bystander for all of the proceedings, which wrapped up a little more than two hours after they began with a 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory for Murray.
|Andy Murray returns a shot against David Goffin at the Wimbledon Championships on Monday. (AFP-Yonhap)|
“I was pretty nervous and stuff before the match. Then when you’re walking to the court ― I have a lot of memories obviously from last year. To come to the court and get that reception, it was very nice,” said Murray, who last year became the first man from Britain since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the nation’s prestigious tennis tournament.
That title for Perry was his third in a row at the All England Club, but he did not try for another one in 1937.
Murray heeded advice from Mauresmo, the 2006 women’s champion at Wimbledon, who told him to soak in everything while walking out to play because, as he put it, “You never know if you’ll get the chance to do it again.”
He responded to the crowd’s reaction with a quick wave and a glance around the arena.
“Enjoyed it for the walk to the chair,” Murray said. “Then when I sat down, it was time to get on with business.”
Certainly took care of that. He was crisp and clean, finishing with only 10 unforced errors and saving the only two break points he faced. He pounded serves at up to 131 mph and returned Goffin’s not-quite-as-fast offerings with ease.
All the while, the fans roared for his winners and groaned as a group when their man lost points, no matter how or what significance. They gasped when Murray’s leg buckled a bit and he slipped to the fresh turf in the third game. He rose to his feet quickly and won that point, part of racing to a 3-0 lead.
No matter the attention and expectations heaped on him by a nation, Murray handles it quite well, particularly when’s on the court. Even when he’s away from the action, he’s been at ease, pausing less than two hours before Monday’s match to oblige a fan’s request to pose for a selfie.
“I always say the buildup to the tournament is the hardest part. Once the tournament starts, it’s fine,” said the third-seeded Murray, whose other Grand Slam title came at the 2012 U.S. Open. “I mean, I say it every year. I don’t turn the TV on. I don’t watch too much of the tennis. I don’t read any of the papers. I don’t go online. I just avoid it, concentrate on playing.”
The man he beat in last year’s final, No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic, won in similarly easy fashion on Day 1, taking the first 11 games and never facing a break point en route to beating 56th-ranked Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-1, 6-4.
“A great start,” said Djokovic, the 2011 champion.
All in all, it was a relatively quiet start to a tournament that a year ago was as tumultuous as ever, including exits by the end of the second round for past champions Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova. That trio, along with five-time champion and No. 1-seeded Serena Williams, play their opening matches Tuesday.
Williams’ older sister Venus won Monday, her first victory at Wimbledon since 2011. But there were losses for 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur, 18th-seeded Sloane Stephens and 27th-seeded Garbine Muguruza, the 20-year-old Spaniard who surprisingly beat Serena Williams in the second round of the French Open last month.
Three lower-seeded men lost, too: No. 18 Fernando Verdasco, No. 25 Andrea Seppi and No. 31 Vasek Pospisil.
Stephens had reached at least the fourth round at six consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, the longest active streak for a woman, but she ran up against a former top-10 player in Maria Kirilenko and was beaten 6-2, 7-6 (6).