(January 16, 2017) Coming into a major for the first time in his career as the No. 1 seed, Andy Murray had to hold off a game Illya Marchenko of Ukraine a 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-2 to advance to the second round of the Australian Open on Monday.
Marchenko hit 46 winners to 62 unforced errors in the match to Murray’s 25 winners and 27 errors, but the winner broke his opponent’s serve six times.
The Scot has never won in Melbourne, but has been a finalist five times including the last two years.
Marchenko made 62 unforced errors, compared with Murray’s 27.
“I don’t think it was the best match, to be honest,” Murray said. “You know, the conditions there were pretty different to what we’ve been practicing. Last week’s been pretty cool. A lot of days, it’s been overcast. The temperature of the court is much cooler. When it’s like that, the ball is bouncing a bit lower, a bit easier to control the ball. I was a bit tentative because of that.
“And, yeah, didn’t serve that well either. So you end up having to work really hard on a lot of your service games when it’s like that.
“It just was tough.”
“I didn’t move that well,” he explained. “That’s how it felt anyway. But sometimes that can also be down to the conditions, as well. The ball’s flying through the air a little bit quicker, so the ball is coming onto you faster than what it was the last few days. Maybe wasn’t reacting as quickly as I would have liked.
“But, yeah, maybe also nerves there first round as well. It’s maybe normal to feel a little bit slow on your feet or a bit heavy-legged in the first round.”
Murray, recently receiving a knighthood by the Queen of England, on top of becoming No. 1 in men’s tennis, talked about his feeling about being on top of the tennis world.
“It’s been great. I think because it’s taken me so long to get there, obviously I want to try to stay there, but also I feel like I’m mature enough now to handle it. Maybe, you know, if it happens when you’re very young, you might feel extra pressures, the responsibilities might feel a bit much. But I think because I’m much older and more mature, it’s been good.”
Next up for the World No. 1 is qualifier Andrey Rublev.
“I know a little bit about him,” Murray admitted. “I never hit with him or played against him, but I’ve seen him play before and he goes for it. He doesn’t hold back. You know, he hits a big ball.”
“I saw him play a couple of years ago at the US Open against Youzhny. I watched a bit of his match there. I thought he was very good. Clean ball-striker. Like I said, goes for it.
“Obviously when you get out there, things look a little bit different than they might on the TV or on the video. But try to watch a bit the next couple of days and hopefully go in with a good strategy. I’ll need to work some things out myself when I’m out there.”
Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori had to battle for a five-set win over Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-2 in 3 hours and 34 minutes.
The man from Japan had a 5-2 lead in the fourth set tiebreak, but Kuznetsov won the next four points and won the set to sent the match to a fifth set. Nishikori dominated the final set by breaking his opponent’s serve twice.
“I think I let him come back fourth set,” said Nishikori. “I should have finished that set. Especially I was up tiebreak, but I think he played well from the beginning. Fifth set I start playing much better. Yeah, it was tough, really tough match.”
Nishikori will not be playing in the first round of Davis Cup for Japan when they host France.
“I’m not playing because the schedule, it’s gonna be too tight. Going South America, Rio and Buenos Aires, and if I play Davis Cup, that’s way too much, you know, for my body and Indian Wells and Miami is coming up after. So I just decided not to play.”
Murray was also asked about Davis Cup:
“I think tennis needs a great team competition. Davis Cup has been there. I think almost everyone I know, like, in the media, all of the tennis players, everyone seems to be in agreement that the format needs to change.
“I sat in a room with all of the guys on the player council, and nobody was for the neutral venue. There were many things discussed that could change Davis Cup, we thought for the better. A lot of players agreed upon. None of that’s been done yet.
“The only thing that I think has been agreed is a neutral final, which I don’t know many people that think that’s a good idea.
“So, yeah, I do think it needs to change. If the top players aren’t playing, the event loses value. So, yeah, we’ll see what happens in the next 18 months or so, see if there’s anything we can do to make it better.”