Given the way that some of the other Britons handled the task of playing at their home Grand Slam tournament earlier this week, it is a good job that they will not be in Andy Murray's shoes this afternoon. Not only is the 23-year-old Scot the lone Briton through to the second round – the home players have never performed as badly in the 133-year history of these championships – but he will also be the star turn as the Queen attends Wimbledon for the first time since 1977. No pressure there, then.
Yet even after one of the most unproductive spells of his career over the last four months, Murray welcomes the unique challenge that playing at the All England Club offers. "The tournament has given me something to really focus on," the world No 4 said as he prepared to take on Finland's Jarkko Nieminen.
"I know it sounds cheesy, but it should be a privilege to go out on the court and have that pressure and be nervous and have that expectation. It's something that over the last few months I might not have put on myself, or maybe haven't had."
The possibility of freezing on the big occasion is not one that troubles him. "I've always enjoyed playing in the big tournaments," Murray said. "That was always why I played tennis. Obviously you want to enjoy it, but surely when you start playing a sport, you want to compete in the biggest events against the best players. When you get there, there's definitely a pressure that comes with it, but something you should be able to enjoy as well.
"If there's extra pressure, I don't think it affects the way that I play. You've just got to get your head round it and deal with the pressure. I don't know if it's something that you have when you're growing up or something that you can be taught."
If Tuesday's straight-sets victory over Jan Hajek was just the morale-booster that Murray needed, he will take nothing for granted against Nieminen, a 28-year-old Finn with the experience of 30 Grand Slam tournaments behind him. The world No 67 reached his career-high position of 13 in the rankings four years ago after his best run here ended with defeat to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
Murray, who has won both their previous meetings, said: "He's obviously a lefty, which makes him tricky. His serve is not that big, but he does everything well. He's just solid. He has good returns, he's solid at the back of the court. He moves well and has a lot of experience. He's played a lot of big matches in his career so I wouldn't expect the occasion to get to him."
The first-round struggles of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who both won in five sets, showed the dangers that can lurk early in a tournament. "The tour is so strong now," Murray said. "I say almost every week that you can't look ahead in the draw. Roger was very, very close to going out and Novak was down a break in the fifth set and was struggling. You need to be switched on right from the start."
Murray said he hoped that playing in front of the Queen would not affect him adversely. "I think it's one of those things when you get out there that you're aware of, but it's our job to be able to concentrate and to focus, not let things that are going on off the court distract you."
As for the possibility of meeting the monarch afterwards, Murray admitted he would probably be a little nervous. "I don't know what I'll say exactly," he said. "I guess I don't want to mess up at all."Reuse content