LONDON: All was as it should be on the opening day of Wimbledon as returning British hero Andy Murray began the defence of his historic title with a accomplished first-round victory on Monday
Under bright skies, with the green Centre Court grass glistening and Murray resplendent in spotless white attire, the 27-year-old walked out to a standing ovation and proceeded to reward his fans by dismantling Belgium´s David Goffin.
It has not all been plain sailing for Murray since his spine-tingling defeat of Novak Djokovic last July to become the first home men´s singles champion at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936. Back surgery, a split with coach Ivan Lendl and up-and-down form meant there were a few question marks over the third seed ahead of the biggest fortnight of his year, but he answered them with an emphatic 6-1 6-4 7-5 victory.
Watched by his grandparents in the Royal Box and new coach Amelie Mauresmo, Murray delivered a dominant display against a lightweight opponent who played the supporting role to perfection, engaging in some thrilling baseline duels but never really threatening to rain on Murray´s parade.
While the samba beat and carnival atmosphere dominates in the soccer World Cup in far-flung Brazil, the 128th gathering of the world´s top tennis players in homely southwest London provided a more traditionally tranquil setting for the thousands of fans streaming into the grounds. Those packed in early on the snug Court Three watched Australian 17th seed Samantha Stosur become the first big-name casualty, the former U.S. Open champion falling to a 6-3 6-4 defeat by Belgium´s Yanina Wickmayer.
American 18th seed Sloane Stephens, a quarter-finalist here last year, was also out before desserts were served in the hospitality areas, losing 6-2 7-6(6) against Russian Maria Kirilenko.First-round losers in the men´s and women´s singles at this year´s championships will receive 27,000 pounds ($45,900), the 14.9 percent rise from last year softening the blow for early fallers, another of whom was Fernando Verdasco.
The Spaniard had led Murray by two sets in the quarter-finals here last year before succumbing, but he was bundled out in four sets by Australian Marinko Matosevic on Monday.
There was an early scare, too, for men´s sixth seed Tomas Berdych, but he rallied from a set down to beat Romania´s Victor Hanescu while Latvian Ernests Gulbis, a surprise semi-finalist at the French Open this month, won three tight sets against Estonia´s Jurgen Zopp.
Later on Monday men´s top seed Novak Djokovic, bidding for a second Wimbledon title and his first gran slam since last year´s Australian Open, opens his grasscourt season against Andrey Golubev after women´s second seed Li Na takes on Paula Kania.