For whatever reason – whether psychological or physical; take your pick – Andy Murray has an incomprehensible tendency of making relative non-entities like Daniel Gimeno-Traver, Ryan Harrison and, tonight, Alex Bogomolov appear difficult adversaries in the opening round of Grand Slam tournaments.
Murray’s rather scruffy performance in winning 6-2 6-4 6-1 will not worry him unduly, but it would be comforting for his supporters to witness a significant improvement, both physically and mentally, against Ivan Dodig (probably) in the next round. While today’s lapses were not fatal – and the scoreline suggests somewhat of a procession – one would imagine that more dominant, initial offerings will be forthcoming from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
The uncomfortably familiar timidity in Murray’s ground game was evident for the first hour of the match before the utter obliteration of a running forehand at 4-2 down in the second set finally raised him from his irritable stupor. Admittedly the shot was struck with a great deal more anger than with any sense of tactical precision but the violence was not unwelcome as the match threatened to become a proper struggle. Additionally, it symbolised the brand of tennis that will be required to win the tournament.
It wasn’t until the final set that Murray finally began to disregard the drop shot and strike through the ball with a little more authority – a method of play that will be essential in potential encounters with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer during the second week. However, even as Murray gained a tighter grip on the match and his own emotional state, there was a disconcerting moment as his hamstring appeared to cramp up during the third set. Fortunately, this did not cause the Scot too much distress; in a sense liberating the previously passive Murray – the necessity of keeping the points short beneficial, as always, to his overall performance.
The most positive aspect of Murray’s game tonight was undoubtedly his service return. He pounced on Bogomolov’s frail second serve with regularity, attacking the Russian up the line and crosscourt almost at will. While the rest of his game was unconvincing, the result was never actually in doubt; an early round invincibility that Murray definitely shares with the Big Three.
Ultimately, it was the lethargy, rather than the level of performance, that was startling about Murray about today. In total contrast to the Olympics – and indeed Wimbledon – there was a curious lack of concentration and energy about the Scots’ demeanour. Whether it was due to the weather delay; the understandably flat, opening round atmosphere at Flushing Meadows; or simply Murray’s lack of hard court preparation is unclear. There is much improvement to be made, assuredly; but nothing to be concerned about just yet.