Murray breezes to opening win as new-found aggression pays off

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray had to wait three days to play his first match at the US Open and when he finally got on court yesterday the world No 4 was in no mood to hang around. Murray brushed aside Lukas Lacko, a 22-year-old Slovakian, in an hour and 51 minutes to take his place in the second round, where he will meet the colourful Jamaican, Dustin Brown.

With the on-court temperature approaching 43C it was no surprise that Murray was keen to do business quickly. This was the ninth match in succession during the north American hard-court season in which the 23-year-old Scot has had to play in the heat of the day, although he said afterwards that he had not found the conditions too hot.

Murray, who won 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, looked in good shape. Having recently won his first title for nine months by playing a more attacking game than has been his custom, he again showed admirable aggression. Both his 37 winners and his 28 unforced errors were evidence of his readiness to attack the ball and he won 21 out of 26 points in which he went to the net.

While Murray knows Lacko from their junior days, he had never played him before. The world No 71 has been a late developer at senior level. He made his breakthrough last year, when he climbed 236 places from No 318 in the world rankings, and won his first match at a Grand Slam tournament at this year's Australian Open.

Although the sun beat down on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the high-sided stands help to keep in the heat, Murray said he had more problems with a surprisingly stiff breeze.

The Scot made his first break to lead 3-1, securing the game with a beautifully judged lob, and served out for the set, although he wasted his first two set points by putting a poor attempt at a drop shot into the net and then miss-hitting a routine smash after seeming to lose the ball in the fierce sun.

After breaking serve in the opening game of the second set Murray suffered his only lapse. Lacko, apparently encouraged by an impressive Federeresque back-to-the-net shot, broke back immediately, converting his second break point with a big forehand winner down the line. Murray, nevertheless, quickly restored his advantage, and took the set after breaking again in the third and seventh games.

At 1-1 in the third set Lacko dropped serve on a double fault for a second time to put Murray on his way. The Scot put a backhand into the net on his first match point before converting his second with a service winner.

"It wasn't necessarily the best tennis, but they were tricky conditions out there," Murray said afterwards. "It was very windy on the court. He was a guy I've never played against on the tour. I haven't really seen much of him play, so I took a little time to get used to his game. But I did enough to win in straight sets and that was the most important thing."

Murray said the key to coping with the heat was to prepare properly. "The night before you try and drink a lot and eat as much good stuff as you can," he said. "Then I use an ice towel pretty much from the first changeover. I wore a hat today. I've hardly worn a hat for the last four or five years. They're the only things you can do. I put a lot of sunblock on and train hard. That's probably the biggest thing you can do to help yourself."

Murray has never played Brown, his next opponent. The 6ft 5in dreadlocked Jamaican, who beat Spain's Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-4, 7-6, 7-5, is the only man from his country with a singles world ranking. The 6ft 5in world No 123 made his Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon this summer.

Based in Germany, 25-year-old Brown used to live during tournaments in a camper van which his parents bought for him. He has been at odds with the Jamaican tennis federation and has even talked about the possibility of switching allegiances to represent Britain in the Davis Cup.

Stanislas Wawrinka, a potential third-round opponent for Murray, beat Mikhail Kukushkin for the loss of only seven games, while Sam Querrey, who is seeded to meet the Scot in the fourth round, beat Bradley Klahn in four sets.

Tomas Berdych could have been Murray's opponent in the quarter-finals but the world No 7 was beaten 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 by France's Michael Llodra. Berdych has been enjoying his best year, having reached the semi-finals at the French Open and the final at Wimbledon, but had no answer to Llodra's serve-and-volley tactics.

Melanie Oudin, the darling of the crowd here 12 months ago, was unable to repeat her heroics this time and lost 6-2, 7-5 to Alona Bondarenko. Venus Williams is the only seeded American in the women's field and reached the third round by beating Canada's Rebecca Marino 7-6, 6-3.

Ana Ivanovic, whose game has picked up recently after a long spell of mediocre results, beat China's Zheng Jie, the No 21 seed, 6-3, 6-0. It is the first time this year that the former world No 1 has reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament. She now faces Virginie Razzano, who beat her fellow Frenchwoman, Marion Bartoli, the No 13 seed, 7-5, 6-4.

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