Andy Murray surprised himself as he showed no signs of rustiness in confidently dispatching Japan’s Go Soeda 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in his Australian Open first-round match this morning.
Four months after having back surgery, the three-times tournament runner-up cruised to victory over his 112th-ranked opponent in 85 dominant minutes on Hisense Arena.
Having played only two competitive matches in the build-up, Wimbledon champ Murray was worried he might be under-cooked, but in temperatures that hit 108 degrees at one stage he was rarely troubled.
“I played well today,” fourth seed Murray declared. “Maybe didn’t expect to play as well as I did today, but the signs have been good in practice. I started the match off very well and did everything solid.”
Murray decided to have surgery on his back after 18 months of playing through pain and said he felt much freer on court against Soeda.
“Not every shot hurt my back before, but on certain shots I’m a lot freer in the movement just now,” he said.
“I hope that continues. That was the whole point of having the surgery. So if I was still in pain and stiff and sore then I’d be a bit worried about the next few years.
“But I’m hoping it was the right decision. I felt freer today than I did for the last 18 months.”
Murray was relieved his match – the second of the day on the show court at Melbourne Park – was played largely out of the sunlight.
“I was a bit nervous before the match but obviously when the shadow comes across the court it cooled down a little bit,” he said. “Still, the air is extremely warm. I was glad to get off quickly.”
Murray now plays Frenchman Vincent Millot after the world No.267 beat American Wayne Odesnik in five sets.
Odesnik was banned for two years after pleading guilty to importing human growth hormone (HGH) into Australia in 2010.
The ban was halved to a year after Odesnik reportedly gave “substantial assistance” to anti-doping authorities, since which he has been largely shunned in the locker-room.
Murray refused to be drawn on whether Odesnik should be allowed to play on the Tour but made his feelings known.
“I haven’t played or practised against him before and I haven’t seen any of his matches. So I’ll try and watch a bit of video of his match from today to see how he plays. But I’m glad he won.”
Meanwhile, top seed Rafa Nadal was granted an easy passage into the second round after his opponent Bernard Tomic retired hurt after losing the opening set 6-4.
Roger Federer, making a record 57th appearance in a grand slam, thrashed local wildcard James Duckworth 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
Tenth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was a 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 winner over Italy’s Filippo Volandri, while Japanese 16th seed Kei Nishikori needed a punishing three hours and 41 minutes to defeat Australian Marinko Matosevic in five sets.
In the women’s event, defending champion and No.2 seed Victoria Azarenka beat Sweden’s Johanna Larsson 7-6, 6-2.
Tenth seed Caroline Wozniacki – playing in her first grand slam since becoming engaged to golfer Rory McIlroy – dropped only two games in defeating Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-0, 6-2.
The Dane said of the sweltering conditions: “It was a little warm. I put a (drink) bottle down on the court and it started melting a little bit underneath.”