Mur­ray raises the roof of No1 Court as fans cheer his ‘fun’ re­turn

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Wimbledon - By Si­mon Briggs TEN­NIS COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Wim­ble­don 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-0

“The fun is back,” Andy Mur­ray said last night, af­ter open­ing his new Wim­ble­don ca­reer with a four-set win. The odd­ity here was that he had never seemed to en­joy him­self much in his old in­car­na­tion as a sin­gles player.

When Mur­ray was a con­tender for the big­gest prizes here, he used to be se­ri­ous and game-faced in his press con­fer­ences – bur­dened by the over­whelm­ing stress that left him nurs­ing mouth ul­cers in the build-up to each Wim­ble­don. He found such ex­alted com­pe­ti­tion sat­is­fy­ing, but hardly joy­ful, be­cause there was simply too much at stake.

But when Mur­ray joined his part­ner Pierre-hugues Her­bert in the in­ter­view room yes­ter­day, he was so re­laxed that you could have pictured him play­ing a banjo in a ham­mock on his front porch.

It is not that he has lost any of his com­pet­i­tive edge. Mur­ray and Her­bert were con­stantly gee­ing each other up as they looked to put the squeeze on their op­po­nents, Ugo Hum­bert and Mar­ius Copil.

Yes, they want to win the ti­tle, and on the ev­i­dence of this vic­tory, they have a shot at do­ing so. But Mur­ray is a dif­fer­ent man now that he has looked out­side the nar­row con­fines of an elite sports­man’s life.

Even if the past two years were mis­er­able for much of the time, they have taught him a broader per­spec­tive, and helped him ap­pre­ci­ate the unique priv­i­lege of play­ing on the show courts at a slam.

“It just feels dif­fer­ent than be­fore,” said the new-look, chilled-out Mur­ray. “I don’t know if that will change over time, but I don’t have huge ex­pec­ta­tions. I just want to go out, en­joy the match, give the best ef­fort that I’ve got. Win­ning is nice, but it’s not the most im­por­tant thing, which maybe it used to be.”

Mur­ray be­gan edg­ily, es­pe­cially on serve. In a short-for­mat contest on the ATP tour – like the other five matches Mur­ray has played with dif­fer­ent partners at Queen’s and East­bourne – a cold start would prob­a­bly have spelt cur­tains. But Wim­ble­don is the last event where “gentle­men’s dou­bles” is played over the best-of-five sets.

Copil and Hum­bert claimed the first set, and de­servedly so. But this was the awk­ward break­ing-the-ice phase of the Mur­ray-her­bert part­ner­ship. Once the starters were fin­ished, their un­der­stand­ing be­gan to blos­som. By the time Mur­ray swat­ted away the fi­nal fore­hand vol­ley, we were al­most in log fire and brandy glasses ter­ri­tory.

If Feli­ciano Lopez looked like a per­fect match for Mur­ray dur­ing their run to the Queen’s ti­tle, then Her­bert also scored top marks on ten­nis Tin­der. He might not have Lopez’s power on the serve, but his hand skills are ex­quis­ite and his re­flex re­ac­tions un­canny.

Mur­ray, mean­while, set him­self up to re­turn from the ad­van­tage side of the court – Her­bert’s pre­ferred po­si­tion – be­cause that is where most break-point op­por­tu­ni­ties crop up. He wants to be in the fir­ing line when the key mo­ments arise, and his mas­tery of Hum­bert’s left-handed serve was such that Hum­bert was bro­ken on six of his eight at­tempts at a hold.

If dou­bles is about trust, then Mur­ray and Her­bert are al­ready bond­ing nicely. There was one mo­ment when they both tried to smash the same lob, which threat­ened to turn nasty un­til Mur­ray ducked at the last sec­ond. Oth­er­wise, they left few holes on the court, and even ex­per­i­mented with the I-for­ma­tion, in which one part­ner knelt down like a sprinter while the serve passed over­head.

For Her­bert, one of the many ad­van­tages to part­ner­ing Mur­ray is that all their matches will be played on No 1 Court or Cen­tre, mak­ing overnight sus­pen­sions un­likely. The new No1 roof closed ahead of the fourth set yes­ter­day, whereas Jamie Mur­ray was left stranded with his even newer part­ner, Neal Skup­ski, on Court 18, hav­ing taken a 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 lead over Ivan Dodig and Filip Po­lasek. The two Mur­rays could face each other in the third round in what would be a night­mare sce­nario for mother Judy.

First, there will be another new re­la­tion­ship for Andy to work on with Ser­ena Williams, in tonight’s out­ing against An­dreas Mies and Alexa Guarachi. As Guarachi said yes­ter­day, when asked about the stan­dard mixed-dou­bles tac­tic of hit­ting to the weaker player, “I’m not sure they have a weaker player!”

Click­ing into gear: Andy Mur­ray (top) with part­ner Pierre-hugues Her­bert

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