Dominant Murray is left to fly the flag - Tennis - Sport - The Independent

Dominant Murray is left to fly the flag

No 3 seed serves up electrifying display on Centre Court to open his campaign – just don't mention the plight of his fellow British men

The waiting is over and Andy Murray is under way at last. Given the weight of public expectation, the last nine days since he played a match must have passed painfully slowly, but the 22-year-old Scot opened his Wimbledon campaign here last night in the only way that mattered. His 7-5, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Robert Kendrick provided only occasional reminders of the brilliance that has made him one of the favourites to win this year's Wimbledon, but there was barely a moment when the result was in doubt.

If the burden on Murray's shoulders grew with his first grass-court title at Queen's Club earlier this month, it has increased further with the burgeoning interest of a public who are starting to believe in his chances of ending Britain's 73-year wait for a male champion here. While Murray dismissed the idea that he would feel any extra pressure given the habitual failure of his fellow countrymen to provide any sort of support - the remaining British men all lost their first-round matches yesterday - it can hardly have helped.

Murray's return of serve was not as sharp as usual, his ground strokes lacked their usual reliability and there were occasions when he lapsed into the over-cautious mode that has sometimes proved his downfall in the past. Nevertheless, there was still plenty to admire in the world No 3's game. He hit 20 aces, found a decent rhythm on his backhand and gave several demonstrations of his electrifying speed around the court to earn a second-round meeting with the Latvian Ernests Gulbis.

If it was not a totally convincing victory, much of the credit had to go to Kendrick, a 29-year-old American for whom limited success has come comparatively late in life. The world No 76 enjoyed his finest moment when he took Rafael Nadal to five sets here three years ago and he was clearly determined to enjoy his rare opportunity in the sun. Kendrick threw himself around Centre Court, making several diving volleys, and treated the crowd to one last dive when he walked off at the end of the match.

The big-hitting Californian might have fancied he had a puncher's chance. He served well throughout and hit some huge winners, though he ultimately made too many errors.

"It was a tough match," Murray said afterwards. 'I was expecting him to come out and go for some big shots. He pulled some off at the end of the second set and he served very well for three sets."

It was a gloriously sunny afternoon, though you sensed that it will again take time for the Wimbledon public to warm to Murray. There was certainly little of the passion the crowd had shown in his last victory in this arena, when he came back from two sets down to beat Richard Gasquet in last year's fourth round.

For the first six games Kendrick made the mistake of hitting too many shots to the best backhand in world tennis. Murray broke in the very first game and did not drop a point on his own serve until the sixth. The Scot dropped his serve when leading 4-3, but broke again with some mighty backhand returns to lead 6-5 served out for the set.

There were no breaks of serve in the second set, but Murray did not look in danger until he served a double fault at 3-3 in the tie-break. When he served again at 3-6, Kendrick ran round the ball to crash a huge forehand winner from outside the tramlines.

Kendrick's confidence was understandably high, but Murray made the only break of the third set in the sixth game, in which the American served two double faults. When Kendrick mishit a forehand at 30-40 Murray clenched his fist and screamed "Come on!" The Scot converted his second set point three games later when Kendrick put a forehand in the net.

In the fourth set Murray broke to lead 3-2 with a typically brilliant point. Having brought Kendrick into the net with an exquisite backhand drop shot, he then cracked a lovely backhand cross-court winning pass. Kendrick saved a match point when serving at 3-5, but it was only delaying the inevitable. In the next game Murray created a second match point with an assured smash and converted it immediately when Kendrick hit a forehand return long. The Scot turned to the crowd to roar his approval and can now look forward to playing an opponent whose game is not dissimilar to Kendrick's.

Like the American, Gulbis has a natural inclination to go for his shots. With a big serve and ground strokes to match, the 20-year-old quickly climbed into the world's top 40, though he has slipped back to No 74 in the world rankings after a poor first half of the year. His 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory yesterday over Italy's Riccardo Ghedin was only his tenth in 26 matches in 2009 (compared with Murray's 41-6 win-loss record).

The 20-year-old Latvian has not won two matches in a row all year and lost in the first round at Queen's Club a fortnight ago to Alberto Martin, a clay-courter. He has played here only twice before, losing to Marcos Baghdatis in the first round two years ago and to Nadal in the second round last year, though he did take a set off the eventual champion. Murray has played him twice before, winning in three sets at Queen's last summer and in two sets at St Petersburg later in the year. Gulbis' father is an investment businessman and in the past his son flew to Challenger tournaments in his private jet.

Asked what it would take for him to reach the final, Murray said: "I'd have to play great tennis. Obviously I would have to win five more matches, and they're going to get tougher every round. But I'm not going to start worrying about reaching the final yet. I need to focus on the next match. I've got a very tough opponent. Gulbis has caused some upsets in the past and is a huge hitter of the ball. I'm going to need to be on my game to beat him."

Great Scot: Murray in numbers

85.4 Percentage of games Andy Murray had won in this calendar year, prior to Wimbledon

12 Number of career singles title won by Murray, one more then Tim Henman.

145 Speed, in miles per hour, of Murray's fastest recorded serve, against Kevin Kim in San Jose in February 2007.

9 Murray held a 9-3 win record at Wimbledon before yesterday, his best performance last year's quarter-final.

3 Number of times Murray has reached the last eight of a Grand Slam, all within the last 12 months.

26 Months since Murray first achieved a top 10 world ranking.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week