Andy Murray set to begin US Open title defence

Coach Ivan Lendl watches Andy Murray practice at Flushing Meadows. Picture: Dan Istitene (Getty Images)
Coach Ivan Lendl watches Andy Murray practice at Flushing Meadows. Picture: Dan Istitene (Getty Images)
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Andy Murray will finally get his US Open title defence under way when he takes on France’s Michael Llodra tonight.

The US Open is the only grand slam where the first round stretches into Wednesday, and Murray is unlikely to have been impressed when he discovered he would not be playing until the night session.

Murray may have been indirectly affected by Monday night’s rain, with both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s next opponent, Rogerio Dutra Silva, forced to play or complete their matches yesterday.

It would therefore have been seen as unfair to make either play in the one second-round match tonight. But the scheduling means Murray will not start his tournament until more than 48 hours after Nadal, one of his chief rivals for the title, and the unpredictable New York weather could yet see the match pushed into the fourth day.

Federer believes tough times on the court have brought out his love for tennis even more than when he dominated the game. The five-time champion is in the unusual position of being only the seventh seed after his worst season for more than a decade.

Federer has won only one title, reached one grand slam semi-final and seen his remarkable record of consecutive slam quarter-finals ended at 36 with a second-round defeat by Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon.

A run at the US Open is much needed, and Federer made a steady if unspectacular start with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Slovenian Grega Zemlja on Arthur Ashe.

The 32-year-old said: “Clearly when you win everything, it’s fun. That doesn’t necessarily mean you love the game more. For me, I knew it, winning or losing, practice court or match court, that I love it.”

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, saved seven of eight break points last night to start his US Open with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory over former junior world No. 1, Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania.

The victory took only 82 minutes for Djokovic, seeking his second title and fourth straight final at Flushing Meadows.

It was a quiet evening at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the packed crowd barely cheered during the most routine of matches.

One of the few exciting moments came on the first point of the third set, when Djokovic lobbed Berankis and Berankis replied with a backward shot between his legs that Djokovic calmly flicked away for a volley winner. The top-seeded Serb hit 28 winners, with only nine unforced errors.

Laura Robson will play her second-round match before Murray gets going, with the 30th seed taking on fellow 19-year-old Caroline Garcia from France second up on Court 11.

Robson looked in decent form in her first-round win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino, showing no ill effects from the wrist injury that had forced her to miss the last three tournaments. It is potentially a tricky match for Robson, with Garcia tipped by Andy Murray as a future world No. 1 when he saw her nearly upset Maria Sharapova at the French Open two years ago.

Heather Watson made it six sets in a row for British players at the tournament when she won the opener against 21st seed Simona Halep but she could not maintain her advantage and lost 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

It was no disgrace, with Halep having won four of her last seven tournaments, but Watson was in tears in her press conference. The Guernsey player said: “I thought I played a good two sets and in the third set my fitness let me down a bit. I was cramping in my legs. I think partly because in the first two sets I was a bit tight.”

American teenager Victoria Duval pulled off the result of the day, the 17-year-old qualifier upsetting former champion Sam Stosur in three sets.