Wednesday 25 April 2018

Nervous Murray makes short work of lucky loser

Andy Murray’s wedding ring attached to his shoe as he plays Facundo Arguello at Roland Garros yesterday
Andy Murray’s wedding ring attached to his shoe as he plays Facundo Arguello at Roland Garros yesterday

Nigel Whittaker

Andy Murray opened his latest campaign for a first French Open title with a 6-3 6-3 6-1 win over Argentinian Facundo Arguello.

Black-clad and business-like, the world No 3's power, poise and new-found confidence on clay proved too much for the 22-year-old lucky loser, who was playing only the second Grand Slam match of his career.

Murray is in the same half of the Roland Garros draw as favourite Novak Djokovic and nine-times champion Rafa Nadal and could play world No 8 David Ferrer in the quarter-finals.

Although he has two Grand Slam titles under his belt already, on the US Open hard courts in 2012 and the grass of Wimbledon in 2013, the 28-year-old Scot has yet to lift the trophy on the red dirt courts of Roland Garros.

But after landing warm-up titles on the same surface in Munich and Madrid, the latter with an emphatic win over Nadal, Murray is now unbeaten in 11 matches on the surface.

"I was nervous today. It's always like that in the first round of a major tournament. It shows that you care," he said afterwards.

"I hope they (nerves) are always there," he said. "I can't remember the last time I played a first-round match in a Slam and did not feel nervous."

The Scot was rarely troubled against his world number 139 opponent, winning in one hour and 45 minutes.

There were a few early nerves, a double-fault in the opening game giving Arguello a break point that he could not convert and again when he allowed his 137th-ranked opponent to recover from 3-0 down to level at 3-3 in the first set.

Once Murray, twice a French Open semi-finalist, broke in the eighth game, however, he was untroubled.

Spain's Feliciano Lopez, the men's 11th seed, became the highest casualty so far, losing 6-3 7-6 (9) 6-3 to Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili.

Croatian Borna Coric and Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis struck blows for the teenage contingent.

Coric, who plays with a maturity way beyond his years and is already in the world's top 50, beat experienced American Sam Querrey in four sets while wildcard Kokkinakis, one of his country's exciting brigade of young guns, battled past Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, also in four.

Defending women's champion Maria Sharapova got back in the groove at her happiest hunting ground, opening her bid for a third French crown in four years with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Estonian Kaia Kanepi.

Sharapova, who was also champion in 2012 and runner-up in 2013 despite an intense dislike for the surface earlier in her illustrious career, produced her usual power tennis to ease through to the second round.

It was not a perfect performance, perhaps due to the cough that was troubling her, but she never looked in danger as she set up a meeting with fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.

Women's 14th seed Agnieszka Radwanska's slump continued as the former world No 2 succumbed 6-2 3-6 6-1 to Germany's Annika Beck.

American veteran Venus Williams, seeded 15, also lost, although a 7-6 (5) 6-1 defeat by compatriot Sloane Stephens barely registered on the shock scale.

French Open

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