There have been times when Andy Murray's courtside entourage would have done justice to an American football team. When he grew tired of spending day after day in the company of the garrulous Brad Gilbert, the Scot replaced his coach with a private army of assistants, ranging from physical trainers to friends who doubled up as hitting partners.
There were still seven people in Murray's box here yesterday during his 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 victory over South Africa's Kevin Anderson on the opening day of the Australian Open, but they included his mother and her partner and two representatives of his management company. Team Murray was down to Miles Maclagan, his coach, Jez Green, one of his trainers, and Andy Ireland, his physiotherapist.
While people like Alex Corretja, who has played an increasingly important role as a coach, and Matt Little, another member of his fitness staff, will remain part of Murray's entourage, the 22-year-old Scot plans to travel lighter this year.
"I like having everyone around and get on great with all of them, but I have to make sure everyone who is here has a job to do," Murray said. "When we go out for dinner it's not tables for 10, it's tables for five or six. It's just a little calmer and maybe we're not spending as much time together."
On this evidence they will not be spending as much time on the court either. Murray, playing his first competitive match of the year, celebrated his return to No 4 in the world rankings with victory in just 97 minutes.
Having played indoors at the Hopman Cup a fortnight ago, he has still to play outdoors in 2010, the roof over Rod Laver Arena having been shut on a day of blustery showers and uncharacteristically cool temperatures. Among the matches held over was the meeting of Simone Bolelli and Marc Gicquel to decide Murray's next opponent.
The stadium was barely half full and the atmosphere no better than subdued, which was probably because the match was so one-sided. Anderson, the world No 147, was outclassed in almost every department, although Murray would have liked to have put more first serves in court, just 23 out of 65 finding their target.
At 6ft 8in, Anderson has a potent serve, but Murray returned beautifully and the 23-year-old South African was peppered by passing shots on his regular forays to the net. Murray, in contrast, looked confident coming forward, which he did frequently. "Last year I may have played a little more conservatively," he said.
Two years ago, when Murray lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round, there were no Britons left in the singles before dawn had broken back home on the opening day. By breakfast yesterday two were already through to the second round, Elena Baltacha having shown Murray the way with a battling 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory over France's Pauline Parmentier.
Britain's other No 1 had to dig deep. Baltacha has worked hard on her fitness but was suffering with cramp from the end of the second set and was grateful for a rain break at 3-3 in the decider. The world No 83 admitted afterwards that she had been feeling under pressure, knowing that defeat would result in losing her hard-won place in the world's top 100.
Parmentier's game was a curious mixture of powerful serving, clean ball-striking when in her comfort zone and woeful mishits when she was stretched. The Frenchwoman appeared to have taken a decisive lead at 2-0 in the third set, but Baltacha showed great resilience. "There was no way I was going to go down without a fight," Baltacha said.
Baltacha will now play the No 30 seed, Kateryna Bondarenko, who will no doubt consult her older sister, Alona, who lost to the Briton at Wimbledon last summer. Katie O'Brien, Britain's other singles player in the main draw, was due to meet Austria's Patricia Mayr early today after their match was rained off yesterday.Reuse content