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Murray soaks in atmosphere upon return to Wimbledon

By Associated Press in London (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-25 07:04

Defending champ gets off to flying start on hallowed grass courts

It had been, famously, more than 75 years since a British man arrived at Wimbledon as the defending champion.

So Andy Murray took a moment - and, really, only a moment - to take in the sights and sounds on Monday at Centre Court as nearly 15,000 spectators, including Shaquille O'Neal up in the Royal Box, rose to greet him with a raucous standing ovation.

Murray's parents and grandparents were present. So, of course, was his much-discussed recent choice as coach, Amelie Mauresmo. The other player, 105th-ranked David Goffin of Belgium, was little more than a bystander for all of the proceedings, which wrapped up a little more than two hours after they began with a 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory for Murray.

"I was pretty nervous and stuff before the match. Then when you're walking to the court - I have a lot of memories obviously from last year. To come to the court and get that reception, it was very nice," said Murray, who last year became the first man from Britain since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the nation's prestigious tennis tournament.

That title for Perry was his third in a row at the All England Club, but he did not try for another one in 1937.

Murray heeded advice from Mauresmo, the 2006 women's champion at Wimbledon, who told him to soak in everything while walking out to play because, as he put it, "You never know if you'll get the chance to do it again".

He responded to the crowd's reaction with a quick wave and a glance around the arena.

"Enjoyed it for the walk to the chair," Murray said. "Then when I sat down, it was time to get on with business."

Certainly took care of that. He was crisp and clean, finishing with only 10 unforced errors and saving the only two break points he faced. He pounded serves at up to 211 kph and returned Goffin's not-quite-as-fast offerings with ease.

All the while, the fans roared for his winners and groaned as a group when their man lost points, no matter how or what significance. They gasped when Murray's leg buckled a bit and he slipped to the fresh turf in the third game. He rose to his feet quickly and won that point, part of racing to a 3-0 lead.

No matter the attention and expectations heaped on him by a nation, Murray handles it quite well, particularly when he is on the court. Even when he is away from the action, he has been at ease, pausing less than two hours before Monday's match to oblige a fan's request to pose for a selfie.

"I always say the buildup to the tournament is the hardest part. Once the tournament starts, it's fine," said the third-seeded Murray, whose other Grand Slam title came at the 2012 US Open. "I mean, I say it every year. I don't turn the TV on. I don't watch too much of the tennis. I don't read any of the papers. I don't go online. I just avoid it, concentrate on playing."

The man he beat in last year's final, No 1-seeded Novak Djokovic, won in similarly easy fashion on Day 1, taking the first 11 games and never facing a break point en route to beating 56th-ranked Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-1, 6-4.

"A great start," said Djokovic, the 2011 champion.


One was a Grand Slam novice playing her first singles match on the main tour, the other was a double Grand Slam champion with millions in the bank and ranked second in the world.

Yet for 30 minutes it was difficult to believe Polish qualifier Paula Kania was the one with a 0-0 win-loss record at Wimbledon and on the WTA tour as she gave Australian Open champion Li Na a jolly good runaround on the most famous stage in tennis.

For the best part of the first set, it looked as though Li could suffer the indignity of successive first-round Grand Slam defeats, but the experience of having played almost 700 tour-level matches finally told as she pulled off a 7-5, 6-2 victory.

Asked what she knew about Kania before their first-round tussle, a smiling Li quipped: "Zero. I tried to find something on the Internet but I could not."

That was no surprise, given Kania was a practical nobody in world tennis.

While Li is no stranger to competing in the biggest arenas across the globe, with millions of Chinese fans following her every move, Kania can usually be found playing on the second-tier Challenger circuit, where dusty courts often resemble abandoned car parks.

But instead of being overawed by her lush green cavernous surroundings on Monday, the 183-ranked Kania took on the role of a seasoned campaigner as she left her celebrated opponent, and umpire Marija Cicak, red-faced by romping to a 4-2 lead.

Upon hearing Cicak overrule a Li shot by announcing "correction, the ball was in", Kania looked quizzically at the umpire and asked: "Did you just call her ball in?"

When Cicak confidently nodded her head, Kania fired back: "In that case I challenge."

When Cicak's face turned a bright shade of red, there was no need to double-check which way Hawkeye's call had gone.

Kania was on the verge of taking the opening set at 5-4 and 30-30 on her serve, but that was when Li's experience kicked in.

The 32-year-old won 10 of the next 12 games to seal a second-round date with Austrian Yvonne Meusburger.

The popular Li admitted she needs to work harder on her scouting in future.

"Two or three days ago I was practising with another player, and her coach said, I think she (Kania) has a good forehand. I played her backhand today and she didn't miss one shot," a bemused Li said.

"So I think I need to talk to the guy later."

 Murray soaks in atmosphere upon return to Wimbledon

Andy Murray reacts after winning a point against David Goffin during their first-round match at Wimbledon on Monday. Murray won 6-1, 6-4, 7-5. Glyn Kirk / Agence France-presse

(China Daily 06/25/2014 page23)

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