ANDY Murray is accustomed to being asked any number of weird and wonderful questions after his matches, and yesterday was no exception.
Such was the unflustered, businesslike nature of the defending champion’s win over David Goffin of Belgium, it was no surprise when conversation in his post-match press conference turned to subjects as diverse as the Beano, wine and his weekend dog-rescuing heroics as well as his 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory.
With Shaquille O’Neal having been a guest in the Royal Box, Murray was asked about basketball – and happy to respond. The same went for boxing, another sport for which he has long had a real affection.
He likes football, too, of course – his grandfather Roy Erskine, a former Hibernian and Cowdenbeath player, was also in the Royal Box to watch the straight-sets win. But one thing Murray has tired of discussing, it appears, is the England team.
The subject has been a difficult one for the Scot since the early stages of his career, when some light-hearted banter with Tim Henman was widely perceived as evidence of anglophobia, and as a result it took Murray several years to win over a section of middle England. He has been sure-footed since when asked about the subject, even when the questioner appears ignorant of the fact that the United Kingdom contains more than one national team.
Yesterday, though, while impeccably polite, Murray made it plain that he saw no point in being asked about the subject any longer. Asked if he felt he was “giving British sports fans something to cheer about” following England’s World Cup exit, he replied: “No. I’m here to do my thing.
“I don’t think that the English football team get asked about me in their press conferences. So I’d appreciate it if that wasn’t brought up when I was playing, because I’m yet to hear Wayne Rooney talk about my matches at Wimbledon. I don’t think it’s fair.”
Now that Murray has made the point, we can probably expect Rooney to be asked the next time he fronts a press conference, but the point was well made. Any British hopeful at Wimbledon has enough pressure to handle without being lumped in with another sport over which they have no control.
Murray, it should be said, dealt extremely well with the burden of beginning the defence of his crown on Centre Court. He was in control from the opening games against Goffin, and when the world No 104 briefly threatened to take the third set, the Scot increased the pressure to wrap up the victory in regulation.
“I played very well,” he said. “I hit the ball very well. I hit the ball clean from the beginning of the match. There wasn’t any moments where I felt like I was mistiming balls.
“I thought the second and third sets were very high level. I thought he played very well. He was aggressive. He goes for his shots. He moves extremely well. He’s very quick around the court. He has great hands up at the net, as well.
“I thought he played some really good tennis. He played a bad game from 40‑0 up at 5‑5 in the third set. But it was very good. The way he was playing, I was happy to finish in straight sets. If my level let up a little bit, he could have won the third set, for sure.”
Murray was given a standing ovation by the capacity crowd as he came out on court at lunchtime, and allowed himself a brief moment to enjoy the adulation. Then he got down to work.
“It was nice,” he said. “Obviously, like I said the other day, I was pretty nervous and stuff before the match. Then when you’re walking to the court, you know, I have a lot of memories from last year. To come to the court and get that reception, yeah, it was very nice. Enjoyed it for the walk to the chair. Then when I sat down, it was time to get on with business.
“I was nervous. I was nervous yesterday – I was probably a bit more nervous yesterday than I was today.
“But it does help if you can get ahead early, like I did at the beginning of the match. I got an early break: that helped settle them [the nerves] down a little bit. Normally after the first couple games you tend to settle down a bit anyway.”
Murray’s next opponent is Blaz Rola of Slovenia, a straight-sets winner over Spain’s Pablo Andujar.
“When I saw that potentially I can play the second round against Andy, my motivation was off the charts,” Rola said. “It helped me a lot in this first game. I’m very, very happy that I actually get a chance to play him, especially here.”
Asked how he hoped he would fare against the third seed, Rola was somewhat less upbeat. “Hopefully I don’t poop my pants and don’t play well,” he said.