Andy Murray sometimes struggles to hit a convincing rhythm early in grand slam tournaments but, after a hesitant start on Monday, he goes into the third round against Sam Querrey on Friday looking as dominant as he did when stringing together 28 wins in a row on his rise to No1 in the world.
He made the most of a heaven-sent opportunity against the little-known Russian teenager, world No156 Andrey Rublev, to win 6-3, 6-0, 6-2, with a slight chill lurking in the cloudless night skies after a couple of days of killing heat.
Murray advances in a tournament he loves but has yet to conquer in five losing finals with an imperious dismissal of an opponent who did not look old enough to be out this late unaccompanied, but whose reputation for pugnacity preceded him. Fernando Verdasco, the friendly Spaniard, is among those who have been irritated in a match by the brashness of Rublev, who has sparred under the tutelage of his father, a respected amateur boxer in the old Soviet Union.
Murray, a keen student of pugilism, had not heard of the father, but, as he does for every match, acquainted himself with the strengths and weakness of his opponent, the son, and duly dismantled his game in a little over an hour-and-a-half in Rod Laver Arena.
He crumpled behind the baseline on his right ankle in the third game of the third set and had the trainer on to check for damage, of which there appeared to be little. His serving percentages were respectable and he did not give Rublev a break opportunity all night, which gave the match something of an exhibition feel.
Serving for the match, Murray graciously offered to replay the first point after movement behind him in the crowd; that’s the way knights of the realm roll. Rublev appreciated the gesture and finished with a bit of a flourish to force deuce but shoved his last backhand long.
Murray said courtside of his fall that it was just a little bit sore, not too serious. Rolled it a little bit, would get some ice on it tonight. He couldn’t put weight on it, so he was that it would be fine.
So, he is in prime shape, physically fresh and mentally alert, ahead of the tougher challenges ahead. He faces Querrey next, whose most recent favour to the Scot was beating Novak Djokovic in the first week of Wimbledon, clearing the way for his second title there and contributing significantly to the minor crash of the Serb’s tennis for the rest of the season, which also facilitated Murray’s rise to the top of the rankings.