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Saturday 3 December 2016

Andy Murray off to a strong start at Wimbledon

Big guns roll to facile wins

Andy Murray in action against Mikhail Kukushkin
Andy Murray in action against Mikhail Kukushkin

ANDY MURRAY'S bid for a second Wimbledon title got off to the perfect start as the Scot booked his place in round two with a straight-sets victory over Mikhail Kukushkin.

Kukushkin, ranked 59th in the world, has never been past the third round at the All England Club but the Russian-born Kazakh offered a stiff examination for Murray, who came through 6-4 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 on Centre Court.

Murray will now play Holland's Robin Haase in the second round as he looks to add another triumph to the Wimbledon crown he won two years ago.

Opportunities to demonstrate his more varied style, however, were few against Kukushkin, who held his own throughout with some heavy hitting and a particularly destructive forehand.

Murray, however, stepped up at the crucial moments, starting in the opening set when he forced two break points at 5-4, before converting a third to move one set clear after 35 minutes.

The cushion seemed to relax the number three seed, who played more freely at the start of the second as a whipping forehand winner prompted an early break and a 3-0 lead.

A number of spectators, presumably satisfied their man was in control, took their leave at the change of ends but Kukushkin had other ideas, unleashing a hammering return to break back and trail 3-2.

Murray has been eager to assume more authority over his opponents in recent months but it was Kukushkin, and his forehand, that was dictating the direction of the contest.

It flew long to give Murray another break but soon found its range as Kukushkin won four games in a row, including two breaks, to serve for the set at 6-5.

Murray, however, dug deep to force a tie-break and spurred on by the invigorated home crowd, made his quality count.

Racing into a 6/1 lead, Kukushkin's momentum was lost and a backhand long allowed Murray to seal the tie-break 7/3 and take a two-set advantage.

Murray was back in the ascendancy thereafter and he enjoyed an excellent start to the third set as he immediately broke Kukushkin serve to lead 2-0.

His opponent, however, refused to lie down and it was left for Murray to serve out the match as he led 5-4.

The Scot's concentration wobbled as a double fault offered Kukushkin two break points, but this time there was no comeback as a backhand wide sealed Murray's hard-fought win in two hours and 13 minutes.

ROGER FEDERER sped through his Wimbledon opener by dropping just seven games to Bosnian Damir Dzumhur. The seven-time champion was never in danger as he completed a 6-1 6-3 6-3 win.

RAFA NADAL might have been condemned to a lowly 10th seeding at Wimbledon but he remains a floater everyone will want to avoid after getting his campaign off to an impressive straight-sets dismissal of Thomaz Bellucci, 6-4 6-2 6-4.

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