|Novak Djokovic after beating Andrey Golubev
London: All was as it should be on the opening day of Wimbledon, as returning British hero Andy Murray began the defence of his historic title with an emphatic first-round victory on Monday.
Under bright skies, with the green Centre Court grass glistening and Murray resplendent in spotless white attire, the 27-year-old walked out to a standing ovation and proceeded to reward his fans by dismantling Belgium’s David Goffin 6-1, 6-4, 7-5.
Top seed Novak Djokovic combined brutal force with deft touches to reach the second round in a 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 destruction of Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev on Monday. The 2011 champion, elevated to top seed despite his world No. 2 ranking, appeared to be heading for a rarely-seen “triple bagel” in men’s tennis when he led 6-0, 5-0 against his hapless opponent.
Golubev eventually registered on the Centre Court scoreboard after 44 minutes, drawing a warm round of applause from the crowd, who were eager to witness a closer contest. Djokovic, however, was in no mood to oblige and took just 88 minutes to book a second-round showdown with wily Czech campaigner Radek Stepanek.
French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis, seeded 12 th here, had some difficulty overcoming Estonian Jurgen Zopp on Monday, winning 7-6 (9-7), 7-5, 7-6(12-10) in the sort of tussle that he might have lost in the past when his temperament was sometimes suspect. Gulbis said coach Gunther Bresnik had helped him become a more resilient player.
“Probably a little bit of discipline of practice and amount of practice, which increased a lot,” he said of Bresnik’s influence. Previous coaches always found me in a much worse state of mind. Gunter helped me a lot, but I was ready to be helped.”
Asked whether, like defending champion Murray, he would ever employ a female coach, Gulbis kept his guard up. “Listen, my coach is Gunter,” he said. “Unfortunately he’s a man. I would wish it’s a beautiful lady.”
It has not all been plain sailing for Murray since his spine-tingling defeat of Djokovic last July to become the first home men’s singles champion at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936. Back surgery, a split with coach Ivan Lendl and up-and-down form meant there were a few question marks over the third seed, ahead of the biggest fortnight of his year, but he answered them with an emphatic 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory.
Watched by his grandparents in the Royal Box and new coach Amelie Mauresmo, Murray delivered a dominant display against a lightweight opponent who played the supporting role to perfection, engaging in some thrilling baseline duels but never really threatening to rain on Murray’s parade.
“I thought it was a very high-standard match. I was glad to finish it in three,” Murray, who will play Slovenia’s Blaz Rola in round two, said. “I was nervous this morning and I was nervous last night, but once you sit down on the chair it's time to get on with it.”
While the samba beat and carnival atmosphere dominated the soccer World Cup in far-flung Brazil, the 128th gathering of the world’s top tennis players in homely southwest London provided a more traditionally tranquil setting for the thousands of fans streaming into the grounds.
Those packed in early on the snug Court Three watched Australian 17th seed Samantha Stosur become the first big-name casualty. The former US Open champion fell to a 3-6, 4-6 defeat to Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer. American 18th seed Sloane Stephens, a quarter-finalist here last year, was also out before desserts were served in the hospitality areas, losing 2-6. 6-7 (6-8) against Russian Maria Kirilenko.
First-round losers in the men’s and women’s singles at this year’s championships will receive $45,900, the 14.9 per cent rise from last year, softening the blow for early fallers, another of whom was Fernando Verdasco.
No one would have guessed Li Na was facing a Grand Slam novice as the Chinese second seed survived a rollercoaster opening set before reaching the second round with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Polish qualifier Paula Kania on Monday.