Wednesday, 15 June 2016 08:54 AM BST
Murray starts second Lendl era with first grass win

Andy Murray’s renewed partnership with Ivan Lendl began successfully if not serenely as the Brit started his 2016 grass court season with a hard fought, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (1) victory against Nicolas Mahut.

Having announced his reunion with the Czech ahead of his quest for a record fifth title at Queen’s, the world No.2 returned to the grass under Lendl’s typically stoic gaze, having registered a career-best showing at Roland Garros little more than a week earlier.

Mahut was the first opponent of the second Lendl era, and having won his third title at ‘s-Hertogenbosch just a day previously, the Frenchman looked set to pose a stiff test for the British No.1.

And so it proved.

At times, this match looked like what it was: a player with five grass court matches and a title under his belt versus one who had spent less than five hours on a grass court this year.

Forced to play his best tennis, Murray was twice pushed to a tiebreak, even having to fend off three set points in the second set against the Frenchman, who is better on grass than his current ranking of No.51 would suggest.

But it was always unlikely that Murray would allow Lendl to be welcomed back into the fold with a defeat. Firing down 15 aces, there were flashes of brilliance from the No.1 seed that hinted at a promising summer to come.

Having won Olympic gold, the US Open and Wimbledon under Lendl’s guidance, it is a happy coincidence for Murray that those are the next three major events on his calendar, and he is understandably pleased to have him back in the team.

"I hope I can repeat them. That's why I'm still playing," he said. 

"It's great to have him back. It didnt feel strange when we were chatting before the match. It felt like it did before. I think it's a positive thing. 

"I expect Ivan to have a positive impact on me and my whole team. Whether that happens in three days or a few months, I have no idea. But I trust and believe in what he says, and that can help immediately."

His next opponent will be Aljaz Bedene, who, quite remarkably, is Murray's first British opponent since 2006, when the Scot lost to a certain Tim Henman in Bangkok.

"Although I played Novak Djokovic in the third round at the French Open, in a way it's the biggest match of my career," said Bedene, who triumphed 7-6 (6) 6-7 (7) 6-4 against Frenchman Benoit Paire.

"It's always a pleasure playing someone that good, and it's here on Centre Court. It's going to be a full match, and a great match."

Stan Wawrinka’s partnership with former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek got off to a damp start in more ways than one on Tuesday, with the Swiss crashing out of the Aegon Championships after losing a repeatedly rain-delayed match to Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 7-6 (3).

The world No.5 has enlisted the help of the Dutchman for the grass-court season, and was described as having “the tools to beat anybody and hit anybody off the court,” by his new coach.

But it was Verdasco who looked the more dangerous player on the Queen’s Centre Court, unleashing a series of characteristically devilish forehands to remind those watching that, on grass, he is most definitely a force to be reckoned with. 

For Wawrinka, who only had one day of practice before the match, it’s a case of going back to the drawing board - but he remains confident of improving on his quarter-final showing at Wimbledon last year.

“I know I can do it [reach the semi-finals]. Every year it’s been better and better,” he said.

“I still have doubles here. Also, I can take in the same time all those days to practice well, to do a good schedule before Wimbledon.

“I’m sure I will be ready.”

Elsewhere, the 2012 champion Marin Cilic fought back from a set down to beat Feliciano Lopez, while Milos Raonic's clash with Nick Kyrgios was suspended for bad light at a set all.