The Scotsman was far below the imperious, irresistible figure that defeated Switzerland’s Roger Federer to Olympic gold at Wimbledon earlier this month and showed several signs of frustration in stuttering to his latest win, yet if his dismissal of an injury scare as cramp is to be believed, in securing a straight sets victory his ability to challenge for a first Grand Slam title remains entirely intact.
“I thought it was a six or seven out of 10,” said Murray, who faces Croatia’s Ivan Dodig next. “I didn’t serve particularly well at the beginning but I won in straight sets against a tough player, and that’s what I needed to do.
“I managed to come through, which is the most important thing. Obviously I would have liked to have played a bit better but the conditions were difficult; it was very windy.
“[The court] was definitely slower [than it was last year], that’s for sure. But it was more a case of getting used to playing on that court. When the conditions are breezy it can be tough: from one end you have to do a lot of defending and running, and from the other side you have to dictate the points and play with a bit of spin. I struggled a bit with that, but I did well when I needed to.
“Maybe [I’ll keep using drop shots more]. I think also when you’re playing a bit further inside the court, you get the chance to use it a little bit more and it’s more effective as well. That’s something I’ll need to try and do – it’s tough to hit through guys all the time – not that many are comfortable at the net, so if you can use it well it’s a good tactic and it worked well.”
After securing the first set by winning four consecutive games, Murray laboured against his Russian opponent in the second before displaying greater skill and variety to more convincingly win the third. A potential injury scare and occasional displays of anger went further then the undermining heavy thunder and rainfall, however, in suggesting all may not be well in his world.
For compatriot Heather Watson, the day was a significant disappointing after a relatively successful period was ended by a first-round, 6-2, 6-3 defeat to Chinese ninth seed Li Na.