Andy Murray makes case for his defence with another straight sets win
Germany’s Dustin Brown cast aside as World No 1 makes light work of his friend
Dustin Brown of Germany serves during the second-round match against Scotland’s Andy Murray at Wimbledon. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Richard III can hardly have limped to victory more convincingly than Andy Murray did on day three of Wimbledon. He now looks a solid shot to reach the final weekend, not a prognosis widely spread at the start of the tournament.
The world No 1 and defending champion took just an hour and 36 minutes to advance to the third round with a 6-3 6-2 6-2 win over the entertaining but outclassed German shotmaker, Dustin Brown.
“He started very well, coming up with some great drop volleys,” Murray said courtside of his 32-year-old friend. “Once I got the break, the momentum was with me, got to the drop-shots, came up with some good passing shots. I was getting a lot of free points off my serve, much better than in the first round. I also put a lot of returns back in play, didn’t give him too many free points on serve.”
But the verdict we wanted was just as encouraging. “I moved pretty well too,” he said. “The hip is okay. I’ve moved well the first couple of matches, getting good practices in.”
Murray’s last assignment at the end of what was not as physically demanding a first week as many had feared will be a probably trickier match on Friday against Fabio Fognini, who sways between hero and villain with unfathomable facility, and who has won three of their six matches, but without being examined on grass.
The Italian earlier took just under two hours to beat the talented young Czech, Jiri Vesely 7-6 (3) 6-4 6-2 on Court 12.
Murray could hardly have asked for a more amenable route through the first two rounds. On Monday he opened the tournament by turning back the precocious challenge of the young Russian with Kazakh credentials, Alexander Bublik, in only an hour and 44 minutes.
Brown, as expected, did not detain him very long, either. And now Fognini completes a hat-trick of eccentric opposition. He will relish the prospect of performing in front of Murray’s supporters in an atmosphere not so much hostile as inquisitive.
There can be no underestimating the power of the big stage to either inspire or drain the resolve of a player more familiar with the echo of a near-empty arena, though. And, while Brown has been around the Tour for 15 years, there is only one Centre Court at Wimbledon, a small green patch of south-west London that Murray has used as his personal playground since he was a teenager.
By the time the then-skinny Scot was beginning to make noises in the sport, after winning the boys’ title at the US Open in 2004, Brown was still bombing around Europe in a van that doubled as his bedroom, picking up risibly small purses anywhere he could wield a racket.
While neither looked totally comfortable for the first quarter of an hour or so on a warm Wednesday afternoon, each had a different agenda. Murray’s was to get this second-round match out of the way as quickly as possible and rush to an ice bath to soothe his aching bones; Brown was here looking for an upset to match the one he pulled off two years ago when he put Rafael Nadal out of the tournament in the second round.
But that freedom from higher expectations did not entirely liberate Brown from the growing pressure with which Murray slowly strangled his ambition.
While those long, lean arms hold a lot of power; more than once, Brown was like the hot-shot gunslinger looking for the sheriff: “I’ve got a gun and I’m not afraid to use it.” This induced a mix of panic and desperation and, as Murray observed later, there were a lot of free points on offer. In two matches stretched over three hours and 10 minutes, he has given up only 14 games.
Nevertheless, twice in the first set, Murray could do no more than stare at the ground beneath him as Brown rifled missiles past his feet. There was respect, but a suspicion also that this could not last.
Brown brought the arena to a brief frenzy of excitement when he finished an outrageously skilful exchange with a final lob of the unlobbable Murray before holding for three-all in the first set with a second-serve ace. However, when he double-faulted to surrender his serve in the eighth game, it was the sheriff who shot with more precision, and the clinching ace in the 35th minute was his fifth of nine for the match.
The match could now go two ways: a quick three-set tango like the one they had in their only meeting, seven years ago at the US Open, or a long and grinding waltz over five sets. Murray, whose tennis recall is encyclopaedic, chose the old template.
But what impressed as much as his sharp serving, clever ground strokes, magic retrievals and all-round confidence was his full-bore chasing down of Brown’s drop shots, win or lose. If that hip is sore, Murray really is ignoring it.
This was now a routine Murray carve-up. According to the statistics – which, admittedly, can be contentious – he’d committed a single unforced error in the first hour and 20 minutes and only five over the course of the contest. It helps, though, when the opponent is making enough for both of them; it’s hard to make mistakes when the other guy keeps bashing the net with botched drop-shots and slices from the back of the court.
Murray raced through the second set with increasing power and precision and served out the match to 30, forcing a final folly from Brown, a forehand slice from the tramlines that dribbled into the bottom of the net. They are the best of friends on Tour, having played together on the ITPL circuit, but Murray knows he will have far more serious challenges to overcome in the rest of the fortnight.
And to think there were some disbelievers who doubted he would hobble through even his first match here. He was born to surprise us. As Shakespeare had the old king saying, “I am not in the giving vein today.”