ATP London: Andy Murray battles to first round victory

Andy Murray faced a stern test in his first round match at the 2016 Aegon Championships, battling through two tiebreaks to defeat last week’s Ricoh Open champion Nicolas Mahut. The top seed trailed by a break in both sets but showed why he’s a four-time champion at the Queen’s Club, rallying for the straight-sets win.

Top Seed Edges Tight Set in Tiebreak

The first four games of the match were fairly straightforward, with both men holding serve comfortably. In the fifth game, Murray let a 30-0 lead slip away and the Frenchman broke at 30-40 when a slow slice drew an error from the top seed. But Murray was quick to respond, erasing a 40-0 deficit in Mahut’s next service game, converting his third break point at 40-AD to immediately level the set at 3-3.

Nicolas Mahut hits a forehand volley. Photo; Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
Nicolas Mahut hits a forehand volley. Photo; Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Both men settled back into their serving rhythms after the exchange of breaks. Despite failing to break, Murray was putting pressure on the Frenchman and did a good job of keeping the grass-court specialist away from the net, where he is at his best. The set required a tiebreak, which would prove to be as close as the set itself. A forehand error from Mahut gave the top seed the minibreak at 4-2, but an error from Murray quickly leveled the breaker at 4-4. Another minibreak gave Murray set point at 6-5, but he could not convert. A second chance would come and go before Mahut failed to convert a set point of is own. Finally, at 8-9, the Frenchman hit a forehand approach into the net to give the Scot the opening set.

Murray Battles Back Again to Advance

Just like the first set, it was Mahut who made the first move. The Frenchman reached break point in his opponent’s second service game and showed some great hands at the net to convert for the early lead. This time, Mahut would consolidate the break, holding for a 4-1 lead. The pair would exchange another pair of breaks to see the Frenchman stretch his lead to 5-2.

Andy Murray hits a forehand volley during his victory. Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
Andy Murray hits a forehand volley during his victory. Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Serving for the set at 5-3, Mahut blinked. An unforced error gave Murray double break point and the top seed converted his first to put the set back on serve. He would hold to love to level at 5-5. Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Murray was forced to save three set points with some big serves before holding. Once again, the set needed a tiebreak, but there would be no repeat of the first set epic. The top seed grabbed a minibreak on the first point and never looked back, racing through the tiebreak 7-1 to seal the victory.

By the Numbers

Despite the two early breaks, Murray was very strong on serve, winning 81 percent of his first serve points and pounding 15 aces. He narrowly edged his opponent in winners 37 to 35, although Mahut had one less unforced error with 11 to Murray’s 12. The key to the match was Murray’s ability to neutralize the Frenchman’s net game. Mahut only won 27 of 45 points when he approached the net, where he usually dominates.

Murray will take on countryman Aljaz Bedene in the second round.