The wait was a long one but Andy Murray's US Open campaign is under way. The 24-year-old Scot had to hold on until the third day of the year's final Grand Slam tournament to play Somdev Devvarman but by the end of his first-round match was looking in good shape for the greater challenges that lie ahead. Murray won 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 to earn a meeting in the second round with the Dutchman Robin Haase.
After rarely getting out of third gear as he laboured to win a 70-minute first set, Murray put his foot down in the latter stages to pull clear of his Indian opponent. Devvarman, the world No 64, is a competent ball-striker but did not have a big enough game to trouble Murray unduly. Having looked nervous at the start, the British No 1 played much better in the second and third sets and completed victory in two hours and 27 minutes.
With clear blue skies and warm sunshine, the conditions could hardly have been better, although Murray said there was a stiff breeze. The match was played in the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium, which was barely a quarter full for most of the contest.
Nevertheless concentration was still a challenge for the players as spectators wandered around with apparently little concern for those on court. During one of Murray's service games, two women who were sitting in the front row got up and left, stopping to talk to someone on their way out.
Murray's early play did not match the boldness of his new bright-red shirt. The Scot lost the first three points, recovered to deuce and then dropped serve when he put a backhand in the net. He broke back to level at 3-3 when Devvarman hit a double fault on break point. The Indian took a 3-1 lead in the tie-break, but Murray won six of the next eight points to take the set.
At 2-2 in the second set Murray broke to love, completing the job with a rasping backhand winner down the line. The Scot, growing in confidence, won nine games in a row, faltering only at the end. He was broken when he served for the match at 5-2, making three successive errors by putting an attempted drop shot in the net and then missing two forehands. It was only delaying the inevitable, however, and Murray broke for the seventh time in the next game to take the match.
"I was a little bit nervous at the start and making some bad decisions," Murray said afterwards. "Once I calmed down I felt better in the middle of the first set and started hitting the ball a little bit better. But the second and third sets were good. I was hitting the ball pretty clean."
Asked why he had felt nervous, Murray replied with a smile: "Try being a British player going into a Grand Slam. It's not easy." He added: "You put a lot of effort and preparation into getting ready for these events and you don't want to get off to a bad start. I think nerves are a good thing. I think it shows you care and that I put a lot into getting ready for it. I hope my game's going to be there and the hard work pays off."
Haase, Murray's next opponent, beat Portugal's Rui Machado 6-0, 6-4, 6-4. The 24-year-old Dutchman, ranked No 41 in the world, won his first title this summer and beat Murray in their only previous meeting in Rotterdam three years ago. "He's tough and he'll definitely come out swinging, so I need to try and weather that, play a solid match," Murray said. "He's talented. He has quite a big game. He'll start off very fast, very flashy. He likes playing on the big courts."
Elena Baltacha, who plays Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round today, is the only Briton left in the women's singles after Laura Robson was beaten 6-2, 6-3 by the world No 33, Anabel Medina Garrigues, a 29-year-old Spaniard playing in her 32nd consecutive Grand Slam tournament.
What Medina Garrigues lacked in major weapons she made up for with her consistency as she kept making 17-year-old Robson play the extra ball. The youngest player in the world's top 200 went for her shots, which was a sound enough strategy, but the match statistics told their own story. Robson hit 20 winners to the Spaniard's nine but made 32 unforced errors to her opponent's six.
"I just made too many mistakes," Robson said afterwards. "I think I could have played better and I think I tried to go for too much. She always tried to go for the spin and then wait for the shot, so I thought I had to get in there straight away. I just went for too much sometimes."
Anne Keothavong lost 7-5, 6-3 to South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers on Tuesday night despite making a flying start. The Briton went 5-2 up and had a set point, but Scheepers took command of the match by winning seven games in a row.
Results: US Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, US
Men's Singles 1st rd R Dutra Da Silva (Br) bt L Sorensen (Rep Ire) 6-0 3-6 6-4 1-0 ret; (18) J Martin Del Potro (Arg) bt F Volandri (It) 6-3 6-1 6-1; D Junqueira (Arg) bt K Beck (Slovak) 6-2 ret; G Garcia-Lopez (Sp) bt D Gimeno-Traver (Sp) 6-3 1-6 7-6 4-6 7-6; (25) F Lopez (Sp) bt T Ito (Japan) 6-2 6-4 6-4; V Pospisil (Can) bt L Rosol (Cz Rep) 6-1 6-2 6-1; R Haase (Neth) bt R Machado (Portugal) 6-0 6-4 6-4; (4) A Murray (GB) bt S Devvarman (India) 7-6 6-2 6-3; D Istomin (Uzb) bt R Sweeting (US) 3-6 7-5 6-4 7-6; J Benneteau (Fr) bt (10) N Almagro (Sp) 6-2 6-4 6-3 .
Women's Singles 2nd rd M Niculescu (Rom) bt A Dulgheru (Rom) 6-3 6-0; (27) L Safarova (Cz Rep) bt M Keys (US) 3-6 7-5 6-4; (13) S Peng (Chin) bt T Pironkova (Bul) 6-2 6-4; (19) J Goerges (Ger) bt L Pous Tio (Sp) 6-3 6-1; C McHale (US) bt (8) M Bartoli (Fr) 7-6 6-2; (25) M Kirilenko (Rus) bt V Dushevina (Rus) 6-1 6-2; (24) N Petrova (Rus) bt P Hercog (Sloven) 6-2 6-4; (22) S Lisicki (Ger) bt V Williams (US) w/o; (30) A Medina Garrigues (Sp) bt L Robson (GB) 6-2 6-3; (2) V Zvonareva (Rus) bt K Bondarenko (Ukr) 7-5 3-6 6-3.
* Seeded players in CAPS