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'Nervous' Murray Returns Ovation With Ice-Cool Display

In the build-up to Wimbledon, the Centre Court grass is sacrosanct. Woe betide the creature – be it hedgehog, fox or committee member – that steps on to the greensward uninvited.

So to walk out at 1.00 on the first Monday on to that lush and unmarked rectangle, a privilege restricted to the reigning men's champion and his opponent, must be a little nerve-wracking. You are making fresh prints, as if approaching the North Pole or touching down on the Moon.

Murray's first-round opponent, David Goffin, had predicted that the title holder might feel a little wobbly yesterday. But when the bell sounded – metaphorically at least – Murray was ready.

As the players took to the court, he received an unprecedented standing ovation, the first ever offered to a defending champion. And once the full-throated roars had died down, he squared his shoulders and inhabited his role to the full.

The signature shots were all there. He hit an ace to close out the first game, a forehand winner to send a wrong-footed Goffin to the turf, and a perfect topspin lob to claim a 5-1 lead.

Even though Goffin gradually acclimatised to the grandeur of the setting and the quality of his opponent's racket work, Murray (below) was never seriously threatened as he surged to a straight sets victory in 122 minutes (6-1 6-4 7-5).

"I was pretty nervous beforehand," said Murray, who will play Blaz Rola of Slovenia in the second round tomorrow. "But it does help if you can get ahead early, like I did (in the first round). I hit the ball clean from the beginning. I thought the second and third sets were very high-level."

Calm and composed for most of the match, Murray did begin to show signs of stress – grimaces, yelps, that sort of thing – late in the third set. After the French Open, he had acknowledged a lack of sharpness in closing matches out, admitting: "I need to be a bit more deadly."

And you could see the same concern in his increasingly stressed-out body language. Fortunately Goffin, a delicately built character who stands perhaps 5ft 9in tall and weighs less than 11 stone, helped out at the death by tossing in a string of unforced errors.

Up in the player's box, Murray's new coach Amelie Mauresmo was hardly more demonstrative than her predecessor Ivan Lendl.

She sat with her chin on her fist, or hunkered down low in her seat, as if watching an agonising five-set struggle. And yet she should have been delighted by her new charge's statistics: an impressive ratio of 28 winners to just 10 unforced errors, and a high first-serve accuracy of 71pc.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic lived up to his top billing when he combined brutal force with deft touches to reach the second round with a 6-0 6-1 6-4 destruction of Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev.

The 2011 champion, elevated to top seed despite his world No 2 ranking, appeared to be heading for a rarely seen 'triple-bagel' in men's tennis when he led 6-0 5-0 against his hapless opponent.

Golubev eventually registered on the Centre Court scoreboard after 44 minutes, drawing a warm round of applause from the crowd who were eager to witness a closer contest.

Djokovic, however, was in no mood to oblige and took just 88 minutes to book a second-round showdown with wily Czech Radek Stepanek. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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