Andy Murray vs Yuki Bhambri match report: Murray gets his Australian Open campaign underway with straight-sets victory

Murray's 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 victory wasn't the most convincing against the lowest ranked player in the 128-strong field

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It was not his most convincing performance but Andy Murray got his Australian Open campaign off to a winning start here today with a straight-sets victory over India’s Yuki Bhambri. The 27-year-old Scot needed two and a quarter hours to see off the lowest ranked player in the 128-strong field before completing a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 victory.

Murray, who will next play Australia’s Marinko Matosevic, made more unforced errors than usual, even if the outcome was never in doubt. Bhambri, the world No 317 but a former junior world No 1, is an attacking shot-maker who has the ability to take time away from his opponents, though he lacked the consistency to build up any momentum.

The match was played on Margaret Court Arena, which has been upgraded and is now the third stadium in Melbourne Park with a retractable roof, though there was no need to use it on this occasion. On a warm and sunny day the conditions were almost perfect.

 

Murray had won his first five matches of the year in impressive style, but they had all been in exhibition events. This was his first competitive outing and he was quickly into his stride. The Scot served well throughout and tried to dictate the play, though that was not always possible as Bhambri regularly sought to take the initiative.

The world No 6 was the first to draw blood, breaking serve in the fourth game. Bhambri broke back in the seventh, only for Murray to respond in kind before taking the set with an ace.

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Murray's first round victory wasn't his most convincing victory of his career

Having won the second set after breaking to lead 4-3, Murray had his only significant dip at the start of the third set as Bhambri went 4-1 up. However, Murray soon broke back and dominated the tie-break, in which Bhambri opened proceedings with a double fault. The Indian saved a first match point with a forehand winner before Murray took the tie-break 7-3 with a service winner.

“I thought it was a tricky match,” Murray said afterwards. “He was coming forward a lot. Even when I was hitting good returns, he was changing the direction of the ball very quickly and coming to the net. He played well up at the net. He had good hands, solid volleys and made it tough.

“I thought I served well the whole match. I just got caught a few times the first shot after the serve and my first shot after the return could have been a little bit better. I don't know if that was something to do with me feeling like the court was a bit quicker. I felt a little bit rushed there.”

With Murray facing an Australian opponent in the next round it would be no surprise if the match on Wednesday is given a showcase evening slot on Rod Laver Arena.

Asked what he thought about such a prospect, Murray said: “I don't really mind, to be honest. The conditions today were perfect playing conditions. Obviously in the evening that slows things down a little bit. When it's cooler, it maybe doesn't take as much away from you energy-wise. But obviously you can finish the matches quite late, and that can affect you the next round. But I don't really mind when I play.”

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Andy Murray and Yuri Bhambri shake hands after the former's first round victory

The three other Britons in the main draw of the singles events - James Ward, Kyle Edmund and Heather Watson – play their first matches tomorrow.

Rafael Nadal got off to an impressive start, beating the experienced Russian, Mikhail Youzhny,  6-3, 6-2, 6-2. The world No 3 has not played much in the last six months following a wrist problem and appendicitis. “The only way to get better is to win more matches,” he said after the match.

Ana Ivanovic became the tournament’s first significant loser when she was beaten 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 by the Czech Republic’s Lucie Hradecka, who is a talented doubles specialist with very little singles pedigree. Ivanovic, the world No 5 and a former French Open champion, took the first set in just 21 minutes before her game fell apart.

Several other women’s seeds fell on the first day. Angelique Kerber, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Sabine Lisicki were beaten by Irina-Camelia Begu, Caroline Garcia, Yanina Wickmayer and Kristina Mladenovic respectively, while Belinda Bencic, arguably the best teenager in the sport, won only three games against Germany’s Julia Goerges.

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