IT WAS a decent work-out, no more, no less. But Andy Murray’s straight-sets victory over Benjamin Becker was a landmark all the same.
The Scot’s 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over his German opponent was neither so simple as to be embarrassing, nor so difficult that he had to expend energy he would rather conserve. Straightforward and undramatic, it was eclipsed – even for those who were watching it live on Centre Court – by the defeat of Rafael Nadal by Steve Darcis that was taking place at the same time on No 1 Court.
But every win marks progress, and this particular win has made Murray the most successful British player of all time in terms of victories in Grand Slams. The world No 2 has now won 107 matches in the majors – one more than Fred Perry’s total.
Having last year become the first British man since Perry to reach the final here, Murray is well aware of his predecessor’s status in the sport. But, after his win over Becker, he explained that he had been unaware of the fact that – at least in that one statistic – he had now overtaken the Englishman.
“I didn’t actually know that,” he said. “Yeah, that’s nice. You know, the Grand Slams are obviously the pinnacle of our sport.
“It’s the tournaments I prepare extremely hard for, you know, where you want to try and play your best tennis. I guess that I play some of my best tennis at the slams, and hopefully I can continue that.”
Becker, ranked 95th in the world, gave as good as he got in some of the early exchanges of the match, and had a break point in the opening game. Murray appeared to take charge of the first set when he went 3-1 up against serve then held for a 4-1 lead, but a lapse of concentration allowed Becker to break back on a double-fault. From 4-4, however, Murray upped his game, and secured the first set without needing a tie-break.
A similar pattern towards the end of the second set saw Murray take control by breaking for a 5-3 lead, and the third set was if anything slightly more routine. “It was a good start,” Murray said.
“He’s a tough player. I thought it was a pretty high-standard match, apart from a few games in the middle of the first set.
“We had a lot of good rallies. He served well for the first couple of sets.”
Although he had been aware of what was unfolding on No 1 Court thanks to the electronic scoreboards at the side of the court as well as the crowd’s reaction, Murray insisted that he would waste no time thinking about the implications of Nadal’s defeat. The draw meant he was only due to meet the former champion if Nadal beat Roger Federer in the quarter-final, and he pointed out that there was a lot of tennis to be played before he would even begin to contemplate the latter stages of the tournament.
“Pretty irrelevant right now,” he said of Nadal’s defeat. “I’m sure for you guys it’s very
relevant, but for the players,
especially me – you know, I have to win at least four more matches before that would even
become something I would think about.
“It’s obviously surprising. But, you know, the consistency that Rafa, Roger, Novak [Djokovic] have shown in the slams over the last five, six years, it’s going to be almost impossible to keep that up.
“I didn’t see any of the match, obviously, because I was playing. But, yeah, it’s a surprising loss.”
There was the prospect of an all-British clash for Murray in the second round, but his compatriot James Ward lost to Yen Hsun-Lu. The Taiwanese player is best known here for an entertaining interview he gave after a recent match in which he claimed he owed his athleticism to a childhood spent chasing chickens around his father’s farm, but Murray knows him for another reason – Yen was the player he knocked him out of the Beijing Olympics five years ago.
“I know quite a lot about him. I lost to him in the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing. It was a very tough loss for me.
“I think I’ve only played him once more – earlier this year in Indian Wells. I saw a little bit of the end of the match today.
“He’s made the quarters before. He’s beaten [Andy] Roddick here. He plays well on grass, so I’ll need to be ready.”
Murray admitted that the expectation on him at his home Grand Slam makes this a stressful fortnight for him, but he insisted that the expectation came, above all, from himself. “I put a lot of pressure on myself. I expect a lot of myself.
“So the other stuff that kind of goes with it, I mean, it doesn’t really matter.
“It matters what’s going on
in my head, what I’m feeling while I’m on the court. And I think I’ve done a good job of putting that other stuff to the back of my head and just
concentrate on what’s going on out there. I mean, look, that’s going to be there for the rest of my career, something that, you know, all players at the top of the game have to deal with.”
Asked about the BBC documentary about his life which was broadcast on Sunday night, Murray said that he had resisted the suggestion that he take part for some time. In the end, though, several factors persuaded him to agree, one of the most important being the fact that he had come to know and trust Sue Barker thanks to meeting her frequently in post-match interviews – most memorably, perhaps, when she commiserated with him on court after his defeat by Federer in last year’s final.
“I probably got asked to do it about a year ago, and I said no probably for about seven, eight months, I think. Yeah, I said no a lot. Wasn’t that comfortable.
“But, you know, the people that were in charge of it were very, very professional. They weren’t intrusive at all.
“I know Sue well, too. So I felt comfortable speaking to her, even though I cry every time I speak to her.
“I was told not to watch it. But, you know, a lot of people spoke to me about it today. I think it went over well. So that’s good.”