Wimbledon 2014: Champion Andy Murray confident of rocking on against rookie Blaz Rola

Big Slovenian hopes he will not 'poop his pants' on his debut on a major Grand Slam stage

The older a player gets the fewer new experiences there are to enjoy, but Andy Murray continues to find them. In recent days the Scot has become the first holder of a Grand Slam title to appoint a female coach, the first Briton for 78 years to walk out on Centre Court as defending Wimbledon men's singles champion and, as far as we are aware, the first top-10 player to guest-edit The Beano.

Wednesday will provide another new experience: a first match against a Slovene who speaks near-perfect English with an American accent and hopes he will not – to use his own words – "poop his pants" on his debut on a major Grand Slam stage. Blaz Rola, a 23-year-old graduate in international business management from Ohio State University, is an unknown quantity to most people in tennis, given that he had never played a match on the main tour until the start of this year.

Until he successfully qualified for the Australian Open in January, Rola's only experience of international tournament tennis had been on the Futures and Challenger circuits. He has played only five matches at tour level, but three of them have been in Britain: he lost to Britain's James Ward at Queen's Club a fortnight ago and to Carlos Berlocq at Eastbourne last week before recording the first grass-court win of his career here on Monday against Spain's Pablo Andujar. Rola is 6ft 4in tall, left-handed and already ranked No 92 in the world, which is 424 places above where he was 12 months ago.

Murray, however, being a walking encyclopaedia of modern tennis, knows what to expect. He recently watched Rola lose to Ward twice in the space of three weeks, in qualifying for the French Open and in the first round of the Aegon Championships.

"He's a big guy," Murray said. "He takes chances. He goes for his shots. He probably doesn't have much grass-court experience because he hasn't been on the tour that long.

"He's going to do well, for sure, because he has weapons. He can generate power from the back of the court. He moves pretty well for a big guy, too."

Rola's parents, sister and girlfriend are all here. "I will have a party afterwards, for sure," he said. "I'm not used to all this attention. It's funny walking into all these different interviews. I didn't know the press conference room was so big. Every time you see the video it looks like a small room with a couple of people in it."

Rola said he had never met Murray but had been aware of the Scot since the latter's teenage years at the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona, which the Slovene briefly attended. "I remember how Andy was so skinny when he was playing there and now he is a beast," Rola said. "As far as work ethic, he is one of the hardest workers and definitely someone I look up to. I guess the fact Andy had done so well was one of the main reasons why I was [at the academy]."

Murray was asked if Amélie Mauresmo, who succeeded Ivan Lendl as the world No 5's coach three weeks ago, knew anything about Rola. "No more or less than Ivan would," Murray said. "For 10 years Ivan didn't watch hardly any tennis except for the end of majors, basically. He knew quite a lot about the higher-ranked guys, but he wouldn't have watched Rola play before. Amélie, I'm sure, will watch video and scout when she gets the chance to go out and watch matches involving future opponents. She did it at Queen's."

With his opening match over, was Murray relieved that he would no longer have to answer questions about what it might feel like to walk on to Centre Court as defending champion? "I've been asked a about it a lot over the last couple of months," he said. "Even if you feel fine about it in your head and people ask you about it every single day it starts to become a bigger deal."

Did he now expect a "normal" Wimbledon? "I think so. I don't see too much changing between now and the end of the tournament." And if he wins there will at least be no more American-sounding Slovenes in his path.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices