Defending champ Murray finally plays, wins first-rounder on Day 3

by: AP | August 28, 2013

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NEW YORK -- After waiting his entire career to get the chance to defend a Grand Slam title, Andy Murray had to wait a little more.

And he was hardly pleased with the way the scheduling was handled.

Once the 2012 champion finally did get on court at the U.S. Open, playing his first point of this year's tournament at 9:55 p.m. Wednesday, Murray wasted little time moving into the second round, playing nearly flawlessly in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 49th-ranked Michael Llodra of France.

"Playing at that time for your first round is not ideal," the third-seeded Murray said.

"We were told on Saturday, `Would you like to play on Tuesday or Wednesday?' We said, `Tuesday.' They then told us the next day, `It's looking like it's going to be Wednesday. ... It will be during the day on Wednesday," Murray explained. "Yesterday, as we were leaving ... we were told, `It's looking like you're going to be playing in the evening."

Four hours of rain delays earlier in the day pushed back action, and then Murray's match was preceded in Arthur Ashe Stadium by 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro's win, which lasted more than four hours.


ACE™ Brand Pressure Point of the Match: After winning the first set easily, Murray fell behind 0-3 to start the second. But he quickly rallied and kept the match under control by breaking back at 15-40, 1-3, with a sharp, low return, followed by two patient but powerful and well-placed forehands with his aggressive opponent at net.

Murray wondered aloud why his match couldn't have been shifted to a different court, just to make sure it would get fit in by day's end.

"When the weather's like that, it's distressing for everyone -- for the referees, the organizers, for the players. You just want to get on the court and play," he said. "Whether it's on Arthur Ashe or Court 15, it doesn't really matter. You just want to play your match."

Murray, who last month became the first British man in 77 years to win Wimbledon, did not seem bothered too much by all the fuss once he was across the net from Llodra. Murray made only five unforced errors while compiling 34 winners in the 1-hour, 38-minute match.

Still, by the time they got around to playing, it marked the third-latest start to a U.S. Open night session, according to the U.S. Tennis Association.

"I'm very happy everyone stayed behind to watch," Murray told the spectators in a postmatch interview. "I know it was late, but it made it special to come back to a full house."

In the second round, the Scot will play 81st-ranked Leonardo Mayer of Argentina.

Mayer, who beat Victor Hanescu of Romania 7-6 (4), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4) Wednesday, said that to win, "I will need to play very inspired."

Mayer noted it would help, too, if Murray "also plays badly."

Despite the lopsided scoreline, Murray and Llodra put on an entertaining show. Llodra is an old-school, serve-and-volley player, and he even mixed in one underhand serve and a between-the-legs shot Wednesday.

"It's tough to concentrate, because he's so unpredictable. ... You've just got to be ready for anything," Murray said. "It's always fun playing against him, but it's tough."

The only real glitch for Murray came at the outset of the second set, when he fell behind 3-0. But from there, he quickly turned things around, and finished that set with flair, coming up with a backpedaling, over-the-shoulder, hook shot volley winner while serving it out at love.

By the end, Llodra was darting and diving all over the place, laying out for one drop volley and tumbling to the court as Murray raced over to smack a backhand winner down the line, then allowed himself a smile. On match point, with Llodra up at the net with arms spread wide, Murray flipped a lob winner, and they exchanged grins.

All in all, is was a far more relaxed Murray than the one who struggled through a dramatic five-set victory over Novak Djokovic in last year's final in New York.

Entering that day in 2012, Murray was 0-4 in Grand Slam finals. But he earned Britain's first major title anywhere since 1936, part of a tremendous stretch in which Murray was the runner-up at Wimbledon to Roger Federer last year, won a gold medal a month later at the London Olympics, and then won the championship at the All England Club this July.

Thinking back to his breakthrough victory a year ago in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Murray said: "I didn't get to enjoy the moment as much as I would have liked."

Took a while to set foot back on the same blue court to compete, but once he was there Wednesday, Murray thrived.

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