Top seed Sir Andy Murray admitted struggling with temperatures of 32C in Melbourne after he laboured to victory in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday.
Murray, playing his first grand slam match since becoming world No1, beat Ukrainian Illya Marchenko 7-5, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, although the contest was more competitive than the scoreline suggested.
The Briton made 27 unforced errors, had his serve broken three times and was uncharacteristically second best in longer rallies against Marchenko, a player ranked 94 places lower than him.
“I don’t think it was the best match, to be honest. The conditions were pretty different to what we’ve been practising on,” said Murray, who faces Russian teenager Andrey Rublev in round two on Wednesday.
“The last week has been pretty cool. A lot of days, it’s been overcast. The temperature of the court is much cooler. When it’s like that, the ball is bouncing a bit lower. I was a bit tentative because of that.
“I didn’t serve that well either. So you end up having to work really hard on a lot of your service games when it’s like that. It just was tough.
“I didn’t move that well – that’s how it felt anyway. Sometimes that can also be down to the conditions. Maybe I wasn’t reacting as quickly as I’d have liked.”
Murray made a dreadful start, dropping the first game with three double faults, and although he recovered to lead 5-3, Marchenko broke again before the Scot took the first set.
He wobbled again in a marathon, 76-minute second set in which he became visibly frustrated. Murray forced a tie-break, however, and after edging that he wrapped up the decider in more routine fashion.
Big-hitting Rublev up next
Murray, who has reached the Australian Open final five times but is yet to win the title, faces another potentially tricky foe in 19-year-old Rublev, who upset world No60 Yen-Hsun Lu in the first round to record his first win at a grand slam.
“I have never hit with him or played against him but I have seen him play before and he goes for it. He doesn’t hold back. He hits a big ball,” Murray added.
“When you get out there, things look a little bit different than they might on video, but I’ll try to watch a bit over the next couple of days and go in with a good strategy.”
Evans sets up Cilic clash
Fellow Briton Dan Evans, meanwhile, cleared the first hurdle in Melbourne for the first time with a 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, 6-1 win over Argentinian Facundo Bagnis.
World No51 Evans, runner-up in Sydney last week, faces former US Open champion Marin Cilic next after the Croatian fought back from two sets down to beat Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz.