Wimbledon 2015: Andy Murray into second round after a hard-fought victory over Mikhail Kukushkin

The Scot will play either Robin Haase or Alejandro Falla next

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray will need to play better in the days ahead if he is to win a second Wimbledon title but the 28-year-old Scot still got his latest Wimbledon campaign off to a winning start in straight sets here. There were times when Murray struggled to impose his game on  Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin, but he still won 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 to secure a second-round meeting with the Dutchman Robin Haase.

It is all too easy to dismiss the abilities of a player like Kukushkin. On his day the world No 59 can be a test for the very best, as he showed here 12 months ago when he got the better of Rafael Nadal for more than an hour before losing in four sets. Going for his shots and hitting the ball low and flat, with very little margin for error, the 27-year-old repeatedly had Murray on the back foot, denying him the chance to force the pace.

“You obviously want to go out there and perform as best you can, whereas today I didn’t feel like I was able to do that because of the way that he was playing,” Murray said.

On a scorching afternoon under a cloudless sky, Murray might have become even more hot and bothered if Kukushkin had taken his chances at the end of the second set.

“It was definitely hot,” Murray said. “I haven’t played loads of matches on that court when it has been as warm  as that.

“The day I played Novak [Djokovic] in the final it was extremely hot, but I don’t remember playing so many matches at Wimbledon where it was into the 30s. The on-court temperature, I was told, was 41 degrees when I was playing.

“That changes the way the court plays and the way the match plays out, too. I was glad to get off after three sets, a couple of hours, because ideally you don’t want to be playing extremely long matches in those conditions.”

There have been years when Murray has been so nervous going into Wimbledon that he has broken out into mouth ulcers, but not this time.

“I still had goosebumps and butterflies in the stomach when I walked out there, but I didn’t get myself too worked up either last night or this morning,” he said.

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Murray's coaches Amelie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman watch the action

Murray was on court earlier than he had expected thanks to Petra Kvitova and Roger Federer winning their matches in double-quick time. The BBC like to have Murray playing when people are back from work, but most would have had to sneak home especially early to see the start as the world No 3 found himself walking on to Centre Court before 3.30pm.

The first set went with serve until Kukushkin served at 4-5, whereupon he saved two set points before putting a backhand beyond the baseline on the third. Murray had not had to defend any break points in the opening set, but there were three breaks of serve apiece in a second set of fluctuating fortunes. The Scot was two points away from winning it when he served at 5-3 and 30-0, but for the next quarter of an hour he struggled to put his first serves in court.

Kukushkin broke serve twice in a row to go 6-5 up and also went within two points of taking the set when he served at 30-0. However, that was the moment for his forehand to wobble. Kukushkin made four successive forehand errors to enable Murray to level at 6-6 and then win the tie-break 7-3.

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Mikhail Kukushkin proved a worthy opponent

Murray had put only 48 per cent of his first serves in court in the second set, but he soon put things right in the third. He broke to go 3-2 up and eventually secured victory after two hours and 12 minutes, when Kukushkin put a backhand wide.

“I lost my serve a bit in the end of that second set,”  Murray said. “There was a period where I missed 10 or 12 first serves in a row and let him back into it.

“He played some really good stuff at times and was going for his shots. When he was on the run, he was taking the ball up the line, going very hard and flat. I found it difficult to play aggressive tennis out there. I was glad to get through in straight sets.

He added: “I wasn’t frustrated. Sometimes your opponent doesn’t allow you to play your best. Obviously I wanted to try to play a little bit better. Even though he was making it difficult for me to play well, there are still some things I could have done better out there. Hopefully on Thursday I’ll do better, but the way he played just made it extremely difficult to play offensive tennis. Sometimes you just have to knuckle down and try to get the win.”

When Murray plays Haase on Thursday he will be hoping there will be no repeat of their most recent meeting, at the US Open last summer. The Scot won in four sets in New York but suffered badly with cramp, which he was never able to explain fully.

“I don’t know exactly what happened, but I had terrible cramps from very early on,” Murray recalled. “It was a very tough match for me to get through.”

Haase won their first encounter seven years ago, but Murray has won their subsequent three meetings, which have all been in Grand Slam tournaments.

The 28-year-old Dutchman, who overcame Colombia’s Alejandro Falla 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in his opening match, performs well on grass. He has been as high as No 33 in the world rankings but he currently lies at No 78. He won his last title three years ago.

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