Andy Murray starts US Open title defence with win

Andy Murray was a man in a hurry as he began the defence of his US Open title with a speedy victory over Michael Llodra under the lights on Arthur Ashe.

Andy Murray beat Michael Llodra. Picture: Getty
Andy Murray beat Michael Llodra. Picture: Getty
Andy Murray beat Michael Llodra. Picture: Getty

It was almost 10pm when the pair finally started their match, which was the last of the first round, and it took Murray just an hour and 38 minutes to win 6-2 6-4 6-3.

Rain earlier in the day and a four-hour match between Juan Martin del Potro and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez had pushed the day session well into the evening.

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Usually the night match on the third day is a men’s second-round contest, and it was unlikely to have impressed Murray that he had to wait so long to begin his tournament.

He likes playing at night, though, and the statistics showed this was a near-perfect start for the third seed, who made only five unforced errors in the match and hit 34 winners.

Llodra’s all-out commitment to attack certainly helped, and it made for an entertaining clash for the crowd who, like the players, had had to wait their turn.

‘Ready for anything’

Murray next faces Argentinian world number 81 Leonardo Mayer, who is likely to present a more conventional challenge.

The Scot said of facing Llodra: “It’s tough to concentrate because he’s so unpredictable. You saw a through-the-legs shot, underarm serves - you’ve got to be ready for anything. It’s always fun playing against him but it can be tough.”

His last match on Ashe was the remarkable five-set win over Novak Djokovic that brought him his first grand-slam title, and he was happy to be back.

“It was real special,” he said. “Last year when I won I was in a bit of shock and didn’t really get to enjoy the moment. I really enjoyed coming back onto this court. I’m really happy everyone stayed behind to watch.”

Murray made the perfect start with more than a little help from his opponent, Llodra playing a shocking game to drop his serve straight away.

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The 33-year-old is that rare thing in modern tennis, a serve-volleyer, and his attacking game could have caused Murray problems if the Scot showed too many first-night nerves.

But he looked sharp and another Llodra double fault gave him a 5-2 lead, which quickly became the first set.

Sloppy errors

Murray’s dominance was not surprising. The pair had met three times before and the 26-year-old had dropped just one set - here five years ago.

In their only recent match, at the Australian Open last year, Llodra managed six games.

Murray, meanwhile, has an excellent record against both Frenchmen and left-handers - Rafael Nadal aside.

Llodra made a much better start to the second set, though, and took his first break point to lead 2-0.

The match was being played at breakneck pace, which suited Llodra perfectly, but Murray stopped the rot at three games and some sloppy errors from his opponent helped the third seed retrieve the break in the fifth game.

Murray then made it four games in a row to take control of the set, and with barely an hour played he was one set away from victory.

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Llodra has enjoyed most success as a doubles player and has very good hands, but the excellence of Murray’s groundstrokes was causing him all sorts of problems at the net.

The third seed broke through again to lead 2-1 in the third set but Llodra was not going to let him run away with it.

The Frenchman, ranked 49, even threatened the Murray serve and had a break-back point at 3-4 but the Scot saved it confidently.

Llodra had tried everything, and that included an underarm serve in the next game, but it did not work, Murray bringing up three match points and taking the first with a cheeky lob.