Sergio Roitman was never likely to offer more than a passing challenge, but Andy Murray still had every reason to be more than satisfied with his first match in the US Open here yesterday. The British No 1 won 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in an hour and 35 minutes to earn a second-round match against France's Michael Llodra.
Roitman, a 29-year-old Argentine ranked No 107 in the world, rarely ventures away from clay courts and indeed had won only one match on another surface this year. He never looked comfortable against Murray, who regards this as his favourite tournament.
The 21-year-old Scot's confidence was evident from the very first point, a first-serve ace that swung wide and out of Roitman's reach. He raced into a 3-0 lead and rounded off the first set in 28 minutes with another ace. The only break of the second set came in the fifth game, but Murray always looked to be playing within himself and was rarely threatened on his serve.
The only stage at which he appeared in any discomfort came in the first game of the third set, when he failed to see a Roitman serve until late and was hit on the back as he turned to get out of the way. Murray let out a yelp and dropped his racket to the floor, but no damage was done and he went on to break serve.
By the end of the match it was almost exhibition play from Murray. There was no better point than the last one. Roitman played a good lob, but Murray chased back to the baseline and turned to hit a superb winning backhand down the line.
Murray, who looked in relaxed mood throughout, said afterwards: "I didn't lose my serve the whole match. I thought he played pretty well for about a set and a half. He was hitting his forehand really hard and making me do a bit of running. It was a decent test and I came through it pretty well.
"It was quite tight until the end of the second set, but once I'd won that it was always going to be a long way back for him. I felt much more relaxed after that and started to come forward a little bit and play a bit more aggressively."
It was Murray's first singles match since his lacklustre defeat in the first round of the Olympic Games, though the Scot insisted he had enjoyed his Beijing experience. "You had so many great athletes around you. I didn't leave the Olympic village at all from when I arrived. It was a bit strange. There are no cars there and you don't hear any planes. There was just no noise in the village.
"I really enjoyed meeting all the other athletes and started collecting pins from other countries. Going to speak to the other athletes and swapping pins was one of the highlights for me. I got to speak to people from places like the Cook Islands and British Virgin Islands - and I collected 120 pins."
Murray, who won the junior title here four years ago, is seen as one of the leading contenders for the title here. He had his best run at a Grand Slam tournament when he reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon two months ago and has enjoyed a fine summer on the American hard-court circuit, claiming his first Masters Series title at Cincinnati.
"I'm feeling really confident just now, regardless of what happened in Beijing," he said. "I feel I'm hitting the ball well. I feel mentally strong and physically I'm not tired. I want to do well here and today was a good start."
Llodra, who beat the Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili, will offer a different challenge to Roitman. The 28-year-old Frenchman, who is enjoying the best year of his career and is now No 38 in the world rankings, is much more comfortable on faster courts and serves and volleys with confidence.
Murray is in the same half of the draw as Rafael Nadal, the new world No 1, who looked well below his best in beating Germany's Bjorn Phau 7-6, 6-3, 7-6. Playing only eight days after winning the Olympic title, Nadal looked drawn and off-colour. The Spaniard double-faulted when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set but went on to win the tie-break 7-4.
Nadal, who admitted that his recent schedule had left him feeling tired, was asked why he thought he had never gone beyond the quarter-finals here. "Probably because it's a tough part of the season," he said. "By the time I get here I've been playing a lot. After the US Open you normally have a few weeks off to prepare for the last part of the season, but when you arrive here or at Wimbledon you haven't had much time to prepare.
"I haven't played very well here in the last few years, though I thought I was playing well in 2006. Then I had a tough match against Mikhail Youzhny. He played very well, but I still had a big chance to beat him and reach the semi-finals. Hopefully I'll play better this time."
David Ferrer, who is seeded to meet Murray in the quarter-finals, beat Argentina's Martin Vassallo Arguello 7-6, 6-2, 6-2, while Stanislas Wawrinka, a potential fourth-round opponent, beat Simone Bolelli, of Italy, 7-6, 6-3, 6-3.