In temperatures which reached 41 degrees centigrade on Centre Court, Andy Murray needed more than two hours to get through his first test at the All England Club in 2015 as he began his quest to reclaim the Wimbledon title with a 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-4 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin on Tuesday. Speaking last June, he said: “It’s great having Amélie around, she’s a very calm person but also incredibly supportive, so naturally that helps me”.
Kyle Edmund, the 20-year-old who impressed at the French Open last month, is up against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, while Aljaz Bedene will face experienced Czech Radek Stepanek.
Murray will come up against Kukushkin, who lost his opening match in Stuttgart, won a single match in Halle and then followed up with another loss in Nottingham to Alexander Zverev. “It’s all about how you and I play the hand”.
Murray is the latest sports figure to be drawn by Fraser, as part of a series that’s previously included Usain Bolt and Jonny Wilkinson. Kukshkin, however, decided not to make it that easy.
Racing into a 6-1 lead, Kukushkin’s momentum was lost and a backhand long allowed Murray to seal the tie-break 7-3 and take a two-set advantage. But Murray responded resiliently to force a tiebreak.
The world number three has been handed a tough draw with the potential for clashes against Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic if he is to emulate his 2013 Centre Court success but he is focused exclusively on first round opponent Mikhail Kukushkin for now.
Andy Murray has been true to one mantra throughout his tennis career – be nice to those you meet on the way up because you’ll meet them again on the way down.
“For me it’s a bit frustrating because 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.
Mr Slatcher said he had been coming to Wimbledon for the last 17 years.
“He’s rebuilt his identity, and that’s what’s seen him put himself right back at the top of his game”.
While the expectation of the crowd rests entirely on Murray’s shoulders, he does share one thing in common with the man on the other side of the net – both players have hired female coaches.
“What does worry me is that I don’t see the drop-shot being effective against the very best players, the ones that he needs to overcome if he is to lift this title”. His deep position caused him a few problems as well as countering Kukushkin’s strengths but, perhaps more worryingly, however, he struggled with his second serve, where he has made such gains in terms of speed recently.
“But he played some really good stuff and I found it hard to play aggressive tennis out there”.
“I was glad to get it done in three sets because it was very hot out there”. After all, the Bond villain, like an opponent facing Murray these days, always loses eventually.
Get through it he did.