Andy Murray got off on the right foot at the 2015 Australian Open on Monday, defeating a determined Yuki Bhambri in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3), to advance to the second round.
Murray fights past Bhambri 63 64 76 to book spot in 2nd round of #AusOpen. How did you think Brit looked in action? http://t.co/uuUh4Wwi9j2015-1-19 04:26:19
The World No. 6 was challenged with breaks in the first and third sets, but he responded positively both times, taking the match in a little over two hours. He finished with 13 aces, 40 winners and four breaks.
He talked about what he needs to do to make another deep run at the year's first major, via the Australian Open Twitter feed:
Video: Does Andy #Murray think he can win the #ausopen? Maybe... http://t.co/cothtTeDtt2015-1-19 04:28:53
Bhambri, who entered ranked No. 317 in the world, was game against the three-time Australian Open finalist, winning a solid 67 percent of his first serves. But the Scotsman's big serve and forehand were ultimately too much to overcome.
"He was very talented, he made it tough," Murray said afterward, via the ESPN broadcast. "He shouldn't be ranked 300 in the world."
Murray looked good from the start, earning an early break against the former world junior No. 1 and taking a 4-1 lead in the opening set. But a couple of unforced errors let Bhambri right back into it, as Murray missed an easy volley on break point to put the set back on serve.
He would bounce right back, though, breaking on the very next game and wrapping up the set with a love game. As the Sunday Times' Barry Flatman noted, it was a mixed bag in Murray's first official action from Melbourne:
Barry Flatman @Barry_FlatmanST
Would give @andy_murray 7/10 for 1st set performance against Bhambri. Finished strongly but got a little careless in sacrificing 1st break2015-1-19 02:48:44
The second set saw the competitors trade holds for the first six games before the Scotsman turned in a bit of magic, knocking an absolutely spectacular double-handed cross-court backhand to set up the eventual break. He would hold on his next two service games, looking spry and getting aggressive to hit some powerful forehand winners, which will be important for him moving forward.
Although Murray took the two-love set lead, Bhambri was proving to be a formidable opponent, as Flatman discussed:
Barry Flatman @Barry_FlatmanST
Some aspects of Yuki Bhambri's game certainly warrant higher ranking than his current 317. Not proving an easy nut for @andy_murray to crack2015-1-19 03:09:06
The Indian's talent was again evident early in the third set, as he took advantage of some mistakes from Murray for a break and a 4-1 set lead.
One onlooker offered his analysis:
Andy's played fine, if not spectacular, but doesn't seem to have managed to dictate. TBH, not unusual for #Murray with new opponents.2015-1-19 03:59:58
Murray was able to immediately break back and force a tiebreak, using a second-serve ace and a couple of beautiful shots to roll to the victory. The win sets up a second-round matchup with Australian Marinko Matosevic, meaning Murray isn't likely to have the crowd on his side.
So it's home favourite Markinko Matosevic next up for @andy_murray on Wednesday. Matosevic came through in 5 sets against Kudryavtsev2015-1-19 04:29:50
2014 was a tumultuous year for Murray, who failed to reach a Grand Slam final for the first time since 2009. But this was certainly an encouraging start to his 2015 season.
While he'll have to clean some things up with a difficult draw on the horizon, he looks primed for a deep run in Australia after a convincing win against a better-than-advertised opponent.