Andy Murray made a confident start to the defence of his Wimbledon title as he beat Belgium's David Goffin 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 in Monday's Championship opener on Centre Court.
The 27-year-old was given a standing ovation as he walked on court at SW19, with the home crowd showing their appreciation after last year's triumph ended a 77-year wait for a British winner, per Wimbledon's official Twitter:
The main show court was packed to the rafters from the start as all comers arrived to see Murray's first-round match, including four-time NBA champion Shaquille O'Neal, per ESPN Tennis:
Goffin is ranked 95th in the world and was not expected to cause Murray a great deal of trouble, although the reigning champion was aware the situation would be different from opening games in previous years, per Piers Newbery on BBC Sport:
I don't know how I'm going to handle the situation; no-one does. It will be interesting for me to see how I deal with it. Firstly my mind will be focused on the match - getting ready for it, getting the tactics right - but the walk to the court will be different. I would expect to feel pride but also pressure and some nerves as well. I'm looking forward to it - it's something I've never experienced before.
The Scot put aside any hint of anxiety to storm into the lead, winning the first set 6-1 inside half an hour as he found his rhythm early on, giving his opponent little chance.
He was up 3-0 in a flash as he held his serve twice and broke Goffin at the first time of asking.
Murray's 23-year-old opponent finally got on the scoreboard in his second service game, but it would be his only success of the set as Murray broke again two games later, per The Times' Neil Harman:
Delicious forehand lob and Murray breaks for a 5-1 lead. Safe to say whatever nerves he may have had are no longer there.— Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes) June 23, 2014
The Brit looked mobile and confident as he took the set in 29 minutes, and it could barely have been a better start for the reigning champion as his opponent looked overwhelmed. Sportswriter Simon Briggs provides the first-set stats, which are indicative of Murray's dominance:
Murray takes his first set of the tournament 6-1 in 29 mins; I made it 15 unforced from Goffin, only 4 from Murray. Winner count 6-5 to AM— Simon Briggs (@simonrbriggs) June 23, 2014
An early break for the No. 3 seed in the second set again put Murray in control at 2-1, and he sustained his sharpness as Goffin improved.
The relatively diminutive Belgian showed some nice touches, but despite holding his serve more regularly, he could not get close to a break point as Murray continued to dominate.
Goffin seemed often uncomfortable on the Wimbledon grass, slipping on numerous occasions as he failed to get any grip on the match, which Murray was fast putting out of reach, per Harman:
Goffin again comes to earth with an enormous thud. Murray leads 5-3 in the 2nd. Not so good for James Ward, trails Youhzny 62 52— Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes) June 23, 2014
A pair of service holds from the players at the end of the second set saw Murray win it 6-4 and move within one set of an opening triumph.
Murray's first-serve percentage was an impressive 74 in the second set, while he made only two unforced errors, but Goffin's improvement was shown in his 10 winners compared to Murray's eight, according to official Wimbledon stats.
Goffin finally managed to put an early run of service games together in the third set as he moved into a 2-1 lead before getting his first pair of break points on the Murray serve, per Harman:
Break points Goffin at 2-1 in the third. Giving it all he's got— Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes) June 23, 2014
However, the reigning champion held his nerve to hold and make it 2-2 in the third. Goffin then produced his moment of the match with a running backhand down the line to win the fifth game and lead 3-2.
He managed to create some pressure on Murray as he held serve to make it 5-4, but the Brit held easily and went on to wipe out Goffin's 40-0 lead in the 11th game to break and serve for the match, noted by Harman:
From nowhere, Murray breaks, leads 6-5. Will serve for place in second round against Blaz Rola— Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes) June 23, 2014
Goffin made him work for it as he hit back at 0-30, but Murray's serve came to the rescue as he took the match in three sets, winning with an ace per The Guardian:
Murray will now play Slovenian 23-year-old Blaz Rola in the second round, and in this form he should easily dispatch of the world No. 92 who was beaten in the last round of French Open qualifying by British No. 3 James Ward.
The Scot has not necessarily shown his best form this season—he has lost on 11 occasions—but he seems to have brought his top tennis for his title defence and saw off Goffin in some style despite the Belgian's improvement as the game went on.
There is a long way to go yet, but a confident, varied and impressive initial display from Murray indicates he is in good shape to go deep into this year's Wimbledon.