Andy Murray’s rigorous critique of his opening match at this Wimbledon was that his movement around the court “could have been better”. His second match, against Yen-Hsun Lu, tested him in that area and he handled what his Taiwanese opponent could throw at him – but the outstanding feature was how much he made Lu scurry and scamper, almost always in vain.
This was a dropshot masterclass, a stunning demonstration of the killing disguise which must drain the hope from a man as well as the energy. Another straight sets win for the Scot – 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 – was completed in 1 hour 40 minutes.
His best tennis in that third set? His best start to Wimbledon? These were questions he fended off after the victory. “I don’t know if this is the best start but this was for sure a good match and an improvement from the first round,” he said.
“I was creating chances and it wasn’t easy for him to win games. I wasn’t giving up any sort of mistakes on return and dictating a lot of the points. There was variety, a lot of slice and change of pace. It was good but it’s always difficult to know how close you are to your best. But I hit the ball clean and was happy with how I played.”
In the opening game Lu showed he was up for the challenge, fist-pumping after just the second point. Murray tried his first dropshot but it was an easy collect for Lu, who then showed him how it was done to break the Scot’s serve. But as an indicator of how the rest of the match was going to pan out this was wildly off-beam.
In the next few games Murray overcooked and there was a worrying early outing for that hangdog stance where he drops his head and scrapes the turf with his feet, but a flashing crosscourt winner must have cheered him up.
His serve eventually got some semblance of groove and he relied on it to win him points because other shots in his armoury required a bit more finessing. Then in the fifth game the sun appeared and Murray earned himself two break points, taking the latter to level the score after a long rally.
In the next game, which the No 2 seed won to take the lead, he produced his best shot thus far, a sumptuous lob from the back of the court. Three break points against Lu’s serve then followed, and he found the baseline brilliantly to pile more pressure on his opponent. After a slow start this was better, although serving for the set he had to save two break points before clinching it.
Murray was leading but not yet in control. That started to come early in the second set, though, with a break of Lu’s serve right away, anticipating a smash with wonderful control to pass him. Would that be his shot of the second set? Not quite. Lu tried to conclude another fine rally with another dropshot. He wasn’t short with it; he just didn’t anticipate Murray being able to expand that Gigantor stride of his to reach it.
Considering the self-criticism from his earlier match, Murray would have been pleased with that chase of what appeared a lost cause. The No 76 ranked player had beaten Murray in their very first meeting at the Beijing Olympics, the latter winning the other three, but Lu’s early spark seemed to have deserted him as Murray dragooned him into baseline sparring from which there was only going to be one winner.
There was an outrageous shot from Murray in a game where he threatened another break. A Lu smash sent him almost into the back wall and the height of the bounce gave him only one option: a patted return which so discombobulated Lu he could only find the net.
This flamboyance was only possible because Murray had whipped his game into such shape that he had firm foundations from which to try the delightful, the daft. A dropshot which cut wildly and unplayably right with all its spin was simply delicious.
Maybe his serve still wasn’t perfect but he was putting Lu’s under huge pressure and the seventh game where he achieved a second break featured two more diabolical dropshots, both from behind the baseline where they’re a test of nerve, never mind skill.
A break right away in the third set continued Murray’s dominance. The dropshots kept coming, Lu managing to retrieve one with a mad dash, but Murray still took the point.
Lu tried hard. His shots were delivered as low as he could go, but Murray was on scintillating form as he raced away with this set. His backhand was on fire and the forehand was pretty smouldering too, but this victory was all about those deadly dinks.