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Monday, 16 January 2017 09:12 AM GMT
Australian Open Day 1: Murray battles through as Halep falls rounds up the key action from the first day session at the 2017 Australian Open. READ MORE

Muttering Murray

There is a saying in Melbourne that if you don’t like the weather, just wait 20 minutes. In the city of four seasons in a day it usually rings true, but the 2017 Australian Open soon warmed up, which merely added to the customary drama of the opening day of a Grand Slam event. 

World No.1 Andy Murray has been telling anyone who’ll listen that as proud as he was to have been awarded a knighthood, he’d rather be known simply as “Andy” rather than the full title that his recent knighthood gives him. So when a big image of “Sir Andy Murray” found its way onto the courtside advertising boards, he probably wasn’t best pleased.

The Wimbledon champion loves a bit of drama, though, and he provided plenty of it through his mutterings between points against Marchenko, the world No.95. Three double faults in the opening game set the tone and avid Murray watchers found themselves counting the rants. “Shocking, shocking, shocking,” he said at one change of ends, before imploring himself to “Move”.

Having dropped serve in the opening game, Murray led 4-2 before being pegged back again by a man he crushed 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in their only previous meeting, here in 2011. But at 5-5, he held serve and then broke again to take the set. In the second set, he recovered from a break down to level at 4-4 before taking it in the tiebreak, at the third time of asking.

The third set was more straightforward as Marchenko tired and though the two hours 47 minutes was longer than ideal in the heat, it was comfortable enough. Asked how he should be referred to, Murray politely reiterated his wishes: “Andy” and then explained that although this is his first Grand Slam event as the world No.1, little has changed.

“I feel the same,” he said. “The ranking doesn’t change anything – same pressure, same expectation. I’ve never won here. I’ve lost in the final a few times (five) so I’m hoping to go one better this year.”

Around the Grounds

Fifth seed Kei Nishikori, a potential quarter-final opponent for Murray, needed five sets to get past Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia, while No.7 Marin Cilic also went the distance, coming from two sets down to squeeze past Jerzy Janowicz of Poland.

Sydney finalist Dan Evans continued his fine form with a straight-sets win over Facundo Bagnis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came through in four against Thiago Monteiro, while his countryman Lucas Pouille fell to Alexander Bublik.

Plenty of players struggled in the heat but most survived, including French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, who edged out Marina Erakovic of New Zealand 7-5, 6-4.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams looked in pain at times but was still too good for Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine. Coco Vandeweghe battled nausea to overcome 15th seed Roberta Vinci 6-1, 7-6, while rising star Elina Svitolina, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Carla Suarez Navarro all progressed with ease.

Shot of the day
Despite not hitting his peak for much of his encounter with Marchenko, Murray still had his moments of brilliance, hitting this pinpoint lob to perfection.

Shock of the day 

It didn’t take long for the first big shock as fourth seed Simona Halep limped out, falling 6-3, 6-1 to the big-hitting Shelby Rogers, an American who would have been a tough opponent even if Halep had not been struggling with a knee injury. As it was, Halep suffered her fourth first-round defeat at Melbourne Park as she exited quick-smart.

Ash Barty is a former junior Wimbledon champion who quit tennis in September 2014 and a few months later launched a cricket career. Now 20, and back on Tour, Barty, a former runner-up here in doubles, picked up her first ever singles victory when she fought past Germany’s Annika Beck 6-4, 7-5.

Who’s that?

Remember the name. Alex De Minaur, the 17-year-old Australian, recorded his first Grand Slam main draw victory against Gerald Melzer of Austria, saving a match point in the fourth set before taking the decider in front of the on-watching Lleyton Hewitt.

“Words can't describe how I'm feeling right now,” he said. “Definitely the happiest moment of my life”.

Best quote:
Asked how his wife, Kim, is handling her new found status as the wife of a Sir, Andy Murray had a quick answer. “No more swearing during my matches any more, for any of you who saw that a few years ago”, referring to a few choice words during his clash here with Tomas Berdych in 2015.

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