Murray rises to royal occasion and swaggers past Nieminen

Job done, thank you ma'am, and goodnight. The Queen's affection for tennis is probably reflected in the fact that her visit to the All England Club yesterday was her first for 33 years, but at least Andy Murray did her proud. On a day when John Isner and Nicolas Mahut completed their 11-hour marathon, Murray ensured that the monarch would be back in time for tea by winning his second-round match against Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in just an hour and 42 minutes. After a brief conversation with the two men, she was on her way home.

If the Finn edged the Scot when it came to their pre and post-match bows to the royal box – Murray admitted after seeing a slow-motion replay that he "looked a little bit awkward" while Nieminen performed with the apparent assurance of a West End actor – they were just about the only moments when the last home player in either singles event appeared less than comfortable.

Murray, who will meet France's Gilles Simon in the third round tomorrow, could hardly have played better. He had just four break points against him (all in the opening game), served with power and penetration and found an excellent rhythm on his forehand. The double-handed backhand is normally the Murray stroke that takes the eye, but here it was his inside-out forehand, which he consistently drove wide of the left-handed Nieminen's outstretched racket.

There have been times during the Scot's recent moderate run when his serve has looked shaky, but on this occasion he put 63 per cent of his first serves in court and hit 18 aces. Although he rarely ventured to the net, there was hardly any need. Murray rallied confidently from the back of the court, cleverly varying the pace of his shots and mixing big ground strokes with deft drop shots. For the most part he was happy to play a patient game, manoeuvring himself into winning positions.

Once the first game had been successfully negotiated, Murray took command. Nieminen, who has a solid all-court game but has no major weapons at his disposal, was broken in his first service game, after which Murray served out for the first set. The only break in the second set came in the seventh game, when Murray hit a half-volley winner as Nieminen slipped at the back of the court after the Scot had sent him scurrying from side to side.

Nieminen was broken again in the first and seventh games of the third set, which ended with Murray serving out to love. The Queen, for once, joined in the applause, perhaps happy that the match was over. Murray admitted that he had been nervous before both the match and his meeting with the Queen – who had met a number of other current and former players before the start of play – but added: "I think both went OK." He would not disclose details of what he said was a private conversation. "It was just a quick chat," he said. "I'm sure she's very busy."

The Scot said he had not found her presence a distraction. "It's obviously an honour and a privilege to play in front of the Queen, but when we're playing, it's our job to be able to put that to the back of our minds," he said. "I don't know whether she'll be coming in the next few years, but I definitely enjoyed it."

Simon, Murray's next opponent, was No 6 in the world rankings at the start of last year but has had serious knee problems and is now down to No 32. The 25-year-old Frenchman, who earned his place in the third round when Illya Marchenko pulled out before their match with a shoulder injury, has a languid style that is best suited to clay. He has never gone beyond the fourth round here and has lost his last three matches against Murray.

"He's a tough player," Murray said. "He was at the top of the game before he got hurt. He's a very difficult player to play against, very unorthodox. It will be a tough match if we both play well."

Rafael Nadal had plenty of uncomfortable moments before overcoming Robin Haase, a 23-year-old Dutchman ranked No 151 in the world. Haase needed on-court treatment for a foot problem but still took the world No 1 to five sets. Nadal eventually won 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3.

Despite Mahut's defeat, it was a good day for Frenchmen, with Simon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Jérémy Chardy and Julien Benneteau all joining Arnaud Clement and Gaël Monfils in the third round. Tsonga,though, was made to struggle by Alexandr Dolgopolov in a match lasting almost four hours. The world No 10 eventually won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 5-7, 10-8. Chardy also needed five sets to beat Lukas Lacko, as did Julien Benneteau in overcoming Andreas Beck.

Robin Soderling maintained his run of form with a quickfire victory over Spain's Marcel Granollers, 7-5, 6-1, 6-4. The Swede now faces Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci, who beat Austria's Martin Fisher in four sets.

Jamie Murray did not have as successful a day as his brother, Andy, but could be proud of his performance alongside his regular doubles partner, Jonny Marray. The Britons took Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, the top seeds, to five sets before losing 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-7, 15-13.

Queen's big day out: Murray bows for a rare royal occasion on Centre Court

A Czech, a German and several Americans have all enjoyed the soubriquet "Queen of Centre Court" down the years but yesterday they were upstaged by the genuine article, as the monarch attended Wimbledon for the first time since 1977, which in turn was the first time since 1962. She prefers her athletes to come with four legs and sheepskin nosebands.

Still, the Queen at first seemed moderately interested in events on Centre Court, taking her seat at the front of the Royal Box shortly before Andy Murray – the only one of her loyal subjects left in singles competition – disposed of the Finn, Jarkko Nieminen, in straight sets. Murray had earlier indicated – without giving much away as to the extent of his royalist fervour though one imagines it is limited – that he would need some coaching in bowing protocol. In the event he executed the bow without too much obvious self-consciousness. Nieminen's effort was conspicuously lower, but that was the only stage of the afternoon when he outdid his opponent.

As for Her Majesty's outfit, it was a charming blue affair topped by a rather large, wonky hat. It may be, of course, that she knew the effort of keeping it aloft would keep her awake.

Brian Viner

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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.

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence