Wimbledon 2017: Andy Murray overcomes Alexander Bublik and sore hip to move into second round

Murray made light work of Bublik, winning 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 on Centre Court

Paul Newman
Monday 03 July 2017 15:29 BST

It is safe to assume that Andy Murray has rarely met as flamboyant a player as Alexander Bublik, but it is an even greater certainty that the 20-year-old Kazak has never faced an opponent of such consistent brilliance as the current world No 1.

Bublik treated the Centre Court crowd on Wimbledon’s opening day to some outrageous shot-making, but Murray began the defence of his title in emphatic fashion, his progress slowed only by two rain breaks. In winning 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, the Scot maintained his record of never having lost in the first round here.

Murray, who will meet another unpredictable entertainer when he takes on Germany’s Dustin Brown in the second round, showed few signs of any discomfort from the sore hip which troubled him last week.

Between points there were times when Murray appeared to be limping, but in the rallies he seemed to be moving as freely as he has always done.

Murray celebrates on Centre Court (Getty )
Murray celebrates on Centre Court (Getty ) (Getty)

“I feel pretty good,” Murray said afterwards. “The last few days I had been feeling better each day. Obviously getting out on the match court is a little bit different. The intensity’s a little bit higher, but also the adrenalin can numb some pains that you might have. I moved well today and I thought I did pretty well for a first match.”

Murray said that if he looked awkward in the way he moved between points he did not think it had anything to do with his hip.

“I'm not in a lot of pain when I'm walking, that's for sure,” he said. “Whether it's something that's just happened these last couple of weeks – subconsciously because my hip's been sore - I have no idea. But I'm certainly not hurting between the points.”

Murray’s build-up has been far from ideal, but he is hoping that he can play his way into this tournament in the same way that he recovered from an unpromising start to reach the semi-finals of last month’s French Open.

Murray's game was briefly delayed by rain
Murray's game was briefly delayed by rain (Getty)

There were some good signs. Murray showed some lovely touches, combining delicate slices and drop shots with some thumping passes both cross-court and down the line, but it was the consistency of his hitting that impressed the most. He made only 10 unforced errors, compared with his opponent’s tally of 35.

“I played pretty well,” Murray said. “It wasn’t the easiest match to play because of the way he plays. There's not loads of rhythm. He's doing different stuff on each point. He served some huge, huge serves on first and second serves. He was hitting some 130mph second serves, which you don't really see much these days. He was going for his shots.”

Murray admitted that he had been a little nervous going into the match. “I hadn’t been able to do as much as I would have liked in the build-up and I didn't know the guy I was playing. In the first match at a Slam there are always a few extra nerves.

“But once I got out there and got the early break and saved a few break points in my first service game I felt good. For a first match, considering how I was feeling five or six days ago, it was really positive.”

Bublik was playing only his seventh tour-level match. The world No 135 loves to entertain. He went for some outrageous winners, but his inexperience was evident in his poor shot selection and frequent double faults.

The 6ft 4in Kazak loves to play drop shots but used them much too frequently and Murray read them with increasing ease.

Alexander Bublik was unable to trouble the world No 1
Alexander Bublik was unable to trouble the world No 1 (Getty)

If Murray felt under any pressure from Wimbledon’s tradition of sending out the defending champion to play the first match of the fortnight on Centre Court, he could at least draw comfort from the experience of most of his predecessors. Manolo Santana, in 1967, and Lleyton Hewitt, in 2003, are the only defending men’s singles champions in history to have lost their opening matches.

Bublik walked on to Centre Court wearing a set of headphones – perhaps listening to one of his favourite Russian rappers – and from the start showed no sign of nerves. On the very first point he charged into the net behind a big forehand and put away a confident volley.

By the second point Bublik was indulging his passion for drop shots and when Murray double-faulted to go 15-40 down it seemed that his opponent might be about to make a sensational start. Murray, however, served his way out of trouble and went on to take the opening set in just half an hour.

Bublik had shown some fine touches, but the Kazak was broken again in the opening game of the second set. It proved to be the only break in the set, though Murray had to recover from 0-40 down when he served at 5-4.

Murray reaches to make a forehand shot
Murray reaches to make a forehand shot (Getty)

Play in the third set was delayed by a total of 43 minutes in two separate rain breaks, but Murray said they had given him the rare opportunity to have a conversation with an opponent during a match.

Murray recalled that when Bublik had interviewed him earlier this year, as part of a promotion for the inaugural Next Gen Finals, he had told the Scot that he had just hit 20 faults in a match. When Bublik asked him in the interview for advice, Murray had told him: “Try not to serve 20 double faults.”

The world No 1 said they had recalled that conversation before they returned to the court today. Murray said: “Just before we went on he said: ‘Thanks for the advice about not serving 20 double faults.’ I said: ‘You’ve served a few [today].’ He said: ‘I think I'm only on about 10 right now.’ I said: ‘Well, there's still time to get to 20.’ It was just funny.”

Bublik dropped his serve again in the very first game of the third set after two successive double faults. He had a chance to fight back in the fourth game but netted a forehand after chasing down a drop shot on break point.

When Bublik served at 2-4 Murray broke again as the Kazak was unable to deal with some potent returns. Murray converted his second match point in the following game with a clever forehand into the corner. After an hour and 44 minutes it was as good a start as he could have imagined.

Murray during a water break on Centre Court
Murray during a water break on Centre Court (Getty)

Brown, who beat Rafael Nadal here two years ago, secured his meeting with Murray by beating Portugal’s Joao Sousa 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. Murray won his only previous meeting with the 32-year-old German seven years ago at the US Open.

Murray said that Brown would be a similar opponent to Bublik in that he was also unpredictable and went for his shots. “He has a lot of power,” Murray said. “Dustin plays a lot more up at the net than Bublik. He tends to come out with some great shots.

“He’s a very entertaining guy to watch. He's a great mover, a really, really good athlete. He's a good personality, as well. He’s always a fun guy to watch.”

Murray was asked for his views about the recent news that his Davis Cup colleague, Dan Evans, had tested positive for cocaine. “It will be a difficult time for him, but he put himself in that position,” Murray said. “The rules are very clear. He broke those rules and deserves his suspension. However long that's going to be, I don't know, but I imagine it's going to be for a pretty long, long period.

“In what was looking like going to be the best few years of his career, he got himself into a position to play in all the big events. Now he's going to have a few years away from the game now. You make your decisions. He's obviously made a really, really bad one there.”

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