Wimbledon: Andy Murray begins title defence with rout of Alexander Bublik

Reigning champion Andy Murray began the defence of his Wimbledon crown with a commanding 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik in the first round on Monday.

The world number one battled through a pair of rain delays in the third set to prevail in an hour and 43 minutes to set up a second-round showdown with the German Dustin Brown, conqueror of Rafael Nadal at SW19 in 2015.

Murray dispelled doubts over his fitness, with many wondering whether his hip, which prompted his withdrawal from the Hurlingham Club last week, would hold up against the 20-year-old. But the Brit reassured fans that his hip was not causing him any discomfort during the straight sets win, in which Murray did not drop serve.

Bublik arrived at Wimbledon as a lucky loser and was in disbelief when his father notified him after he lost in the qualifying rounds that he would be facing the reigning champion on Centre Court to commence proceedings.

Lightning start

The 20-year-old Bublik, whose penchant for the extraordinary manifested itself on court against the world number one, showed no signs of nerves during the opening exchanges. He fashioned two break points in Murray’s opening service game and was striking the ball like a man with little to lose. Yet the Brit began to find his rhythm after staving off those two break opportunities and he took control in the fourth game of the set, whipping a forehand passing shot down the line to notch in front.

Murray was matching Bublik’s unpredictably from the baseline, mixing in a few sumptuous drop shots and a delicious around-the-pole forehand to confirm the double break in set one. He closed it out in just under half an hour of intriguing tennis before striking while the iron was hot in the opening game of the second set. Bublik’s shot selection ought to have drawn a few raised eyebrows from his coaching box and a botched forehand dropshot was duly punished by Murray for the early break.

Murray executes a volley (Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images Europe)
Murray executes a volley (Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images Europe)

More assured

The two-time champion constructed break opportunities at 2-1 and 3-2 but could not convert before he suffered his only minor scare of the afternoon when serving for a two sets to love advantage. Serving down 0-40, Murray salvaged all three break points and fashioned set point with a trademark cross-court running forehand that drew admiration from Bublik across the net.

The second set was wrapped it after 42 minutes before Mother Nature intervened with Murray again profiting from a double fault that handed him the early break. Murray emerged after the brief interruption to consolidate his hold before the heavens opened up for a second time in quick succession. Both players re-entered after a thirty minute locker room retreat and Murray, staving off a brief renaissance from Bublik in the fourth game, marched towards the second round. He broke for the fifth time in the afternoon to confirm his passage.