By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) – There were signs on Monday that Andy Murray was still troubled by the sore hip that had bothered him in the build-up to Wimbledon – but they weren’t enough to stop him from motoring into the second round.
At times Murray limped around the baseline but luckily for the defending champion, that problem disappeared the moment the ball was in play as he easily outclassed maverick Wimbledon debutant Alexander Bublik 6-1 6-4 6-2 to reach the second round.
“My hip felt good. It’s a little bit sore, but I was moving really good on the court today,” said Murray, who is the first British man to be seeded number one at Wimbledon since Bunny Austin in 1939.
“If you’re in a little bit of pain, but you can still run as you normally do, that doesn’t affect how you play.”
Asked why he was limping between points, he added: “Whether it’s something that’s just happened… like, subconsciously, my
hip’s been sore, I have no idea. I’m not in a lot of pain when I’m walking, that’s for sure.”
There was so much uncertainty about the Scot’s form in the days running up to the grasscourt major, one British bookmaker had declared Murray ‘friendless’ – with punters backing him to lose early rather than win the title for the third time.
Some doomsayers even feared he could become only the third men’s defending champion — after Manuel Santana in 1967 and Lleyton Hewitt in 2003 — to lose in the first round.
Others highlighted how Murray was on a two-match losing streak against players classified as lucky losers – as Bublik was having lost in the final round of qualifying but made it into the main draw thanks to another player’s withdrawal.
But any hopes that the 135th-ranked Kazakh could add his name to that illustrious list of ‘lucky losers’ were swiftly extinguished as Murray did not let Bublik’s array of unconventional shots, or two rain breaks, throw him off course.
Bublik threw in a tweener – a between-the-legs shot with his back to the net – he threw his body around the court a la Boris Becker and even threw in a few comical grunts that drew laughter from the Centre Court crowd.
But try as he might, the 20-year-old failed to convert any of the six break points he earned.
Bublik also showed that he has a novel way at following orders.
Earlier this year he had asked “Sir Andy” Murray for tips on “how to become as good as you are”. The world number one had told him “(By) not serving 20 double faults in a match.”
So what did Bublik do? He served only 12 double faults on Monday.
“We were waiting to go out the beginning of the third set (following a rain break) … (and) he said to me ‘Yeah, thanks for the advice about not serving 20 double-faults,” said Murray.
“I said ‘You served a few’.
“He said, ‘Yeah, I think I’m only on about 10 right now’.
“I said ‘Well, there’s still time to get to 20. It was just funny.”
Murray’s hips woes, though, are no laughing matter and he was quick to turn his focus on preparing for his second-round match against flamboyant German showman Dustin Brown.
“I’ll spend some time with my physio this evening, get an ice bath, then have a light practice tomorrow. I’ll work a bit on my passing shots and lobs because it will be a different match against Dustin Brown,” he said.
Despite the swift exit, Bublik was left buzzing.
“Thanks sir @andymurray and @wimbledon for an amazing experience, best day of my Life so far,” he said on Instagram.
(Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond)