Champion Andy Murray sends strong message to rivals

Andy Murray celebrates defeating Slovenia's Blaz Rola during day three. Picture: PA

Andy Murray celebrates defeating Slovenia's Blaz Rola during day three. Picture: PA

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Pity poor Blaz Rola. He endearingly worried about “pooping his pants” ahead of his show court Wimbledon debut and duly got his backside kicked by Andy Murray.

The defending champion advanced to the third round 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 and, ominously for his rivals, wasn’t even on top form, with his first service far from fluid and unforced errors creeping into his game, though discipline is hard to maintain when progress is so one-sided.

However, he certainly had no complaints with the overall performance, wrapping up the third set in just 24 minutes – roughly the same amount of time it takes to queue for the Wimbledon Shop.

It was Murray’s most economical victory yet at the All England Club and only eight players have won with 20 games or fewer in Wimbledon’s 46-year open era to underline just how dominant it was.

Murray clearly wants to expend as little energy as possible in these early skirmishes, rightly mindful of stiffer tasks to come.

He paid the price at the recent French Open for getting dragged into longer encounters, which ultimately meant his fuel gauge was empty by the time he ran into the formidable force that is Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.

It’s a mistake he won’t be making on his surface and his tournament.

“It wasn’t that hard and it’s nice to finish matches off quickly, play well, establish the momentum and do what I need to do,” he said.

“This is the first year he’s played on grass. He’s just come out of college and broken into the top 100. It was tough for him, because he doesn’t have a lot of grass court experience, but he’ll definitely keep improving.

“In Paris I was ahead in matches and then couldn’t finish sets off. It probably wouldn’t have made much difference against Rafa in the semis but every bit of energy you can conserve could be useful later on.

“When you are in a position to win a match like that, you have to try and do it as quickly as possible. Everyone in this tournament are very, very good tennis players.

“If you give them a look in, then they could see a way back in and start playing very well.”

Murray’s biggest challenge in the early days of this championship is feeding a hungry and expectant press pack the morsels they need to fill these pages. We’re salivating about the prospect of a semi with Djokovic or a final with Federer and these early encounters are unfulfilling amuse-bouche that don’t really sate our hunger. We’ve grown spoiled, we expect more.

Which is why Murray spent more time discussing Alan Stubbs’ appointment as manager of Hibs, LeBron James’ decision to opt out of his contract with NBA side Miami Heat and Luis Suarez’s latest indiscretion than yesterday’s match.

Rola is new on the ATP Tour and the gulf in class and experience was clear from the opening game, as Murray clearly seeks to tread lightly on these manicured lawns in his early matches.

Next up is Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, a 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 winner over Jan Hernych yesterday. However, don’t dismiss the No. 27 seed as a hackneyed clay court specialist from the ‘grass is for cows’ school of Iberian tennis thought.

And he claimed some good scalps on his way to victory in the rather snazzily tired Topshelf Open in s-Hertogenbosch last week, his first ATP Tour title.

“The deeper you get into a tournament, the more you are going to get tested. You have to be ready and you can’t get too down on yourself when it doesn’t quite happen,” added Murray. “I’m just happy to come through matches but I will be tested and it could certainly happen in my next match, it can happen at any moment in a tournament.

“It’s a step up, he’s probably established in the top 20 now and he’s improving all the time.

“He’s got the confidence of that win in Holland and he’s proven he can play on grass.

“He’s not like many Spanish players, he hits the ball very flat without much top spin. I practised with him quite a bit before Madrid, so I know a fair amount about him.”

But Murray should still win, edging him closer to much tastier and potentially career defining encounters to come.

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