Andy Murray expressed satisfaction at having negotiated this year’s first Wimbledon challenge in straight sets yesterday but admitted he made life harder for himself than necessary.
There are several more obstacles to overcome but Murray is up and running after a 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin in the furnace-like conditions of Centre Court.
Murray survived the heat and a frisky challenge from the Russian-born Kazakh to secure a second-round berth against Robin Haase, the tall Dutchman he has beaten three times in four meetings, most recently at last year’s US Open.
While his opponent was capable enough, launching a comeback that saw him serve for the second set, Murray had to also deal with the temperature on Centre Court. At one stage towards the end of the match the heat reached 41C.
Murray and Kukushkin were called for sooner than expected due to how quickly the two earlier matches had reached their conclusions, with the Scot and his opponent enduring the part of the day when the heat was at its most intense.
Murray had more need than normal for an ice-bath afterwards. He was still shivering when he met with reporters later.
There was a period where I missed like 10 or 12 first serves in a rowAndy Murray
“I haven’t played loads of matches on that court when it has been as warm as that,” said Murray. “You know, the day I played Novak [Djokovic] in the final [in 2013] it was extremely hot, but I don’t remember playing so many matches at Wimbledon where it was into the 30s.
“The on‑court temperature I was told was 41C on court when I was playing, so, yeah, it was very hot. That changes the way the court plays and the way the match plays out, too. I was glad to get off in three sets, and a couple of hours. Ideally you don’t want to be playing extremely long matches in those conditions because it’s tough.”
As is often the case, Murray made it harder for himself by losing the initiative in the second set, and going from 3-0 up to 6-5 down. However, Kukushkin was unable to close out the set, losing his service game from 30 love up.
Murray was more clinical in the tie-break, winning 7-3. He then sealed victory by taking a more straightforward third set 6-4. But he admonished himself for the gremlins that affected his serve, particularly in the second set.
“I lost my serve a bit in the end of that second set,” said Murray. “There was a period where I missed like 10 or 12 first serves in a row and let him back into it there.
“Obviously, I wanted to try to play a little bit better,” he added. “Even though he was making it difficult for me to play well, there’s still some things I could have done better out there, I feel. Hopefully on Thursday I’ll do better.
“The way he [Kukushkin] played just made it extremely difficult to play offensive tennis. And sometimes you just have to sometimes knuckle down and try to get the win.
“It doesn’t say on this match report how well I played, it just says that I won the match. That’s the most important thing. He was hitting the ball this high over the net and so flat and down the line. It’s very difficult to dictate points when your opponent’s playing like that. But I could have obviously finished the second set a little bit better myself, and, like I said, served well at that period.”
Murray took some time out to send his good wishes to fellow Briton Liam Broady, who is in action today against Belgium’s David Goffin following his stirring first round victory over Marino Matosevic on Monday.
“I haven’t spent loads of time with him,” said Murray. “But every time I’ve been in his company, he makes you feel good. You laugh when you’re around him. He’s a fun guy. So I was really, really pleased he managed to get through that one.”