French Open: Murray breezes past Ito
Andy Murray sometimes makes a meal of his opening matches at the French Open, but the 25-year-old dined at the fast-food counter at Roland Garros yesterday.
Murray swept aside Japan's Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 7-5, 6-0 in just an hour and 35 minutes to book a place in the second round against Finland's Jarkko Nieminen. Apart from a blip in the early stages of the second set, it was a good start to what has always been the world No 4's most challenging Grand Slam.
On two previous occasions when Murray played his first match on Court Suzanne Lenglen, which is the second of the show courts, he has been taken to five sets. Two years ago he was even two sets down to Richard Gasquet before making his customary comeback against the Frenchman.
Given that Murray's build-up to this year's tournament had been far from perfect – he failed to go beyond the quarter-finals in his three previous clay-court appearances and struggled with a back injury – it was important to get a comfortable first win under his belt.
Ito, who is at a career-high position in the world rankings at No 68, was making his French Open debut. The first set could hardly have been more straightforward for Murray. Hitting the ball cleanly, he took it in just 25 minutes. The Scot did not drop a point on his own serve until he served for the set at 5-1. Ito saved three set points before hitting a backhand wide on the fourth.
When Murray won the first two games of the second set a rout seemed imminent, but Ito found his touch at the same time as the world No 4 momentarily lost his. The 24-year-old Japanese held for 2-1 and then won the next two games to love. When Murray served at 3-4 his level dipped again as he went 0-40 down. Two unreturned serves and a missed forehand by Ito later, Murray clenched his fist in mini-celebration. At 5-5 the Scot made his second break of the set, which he went on to win with a love service game.
In comparison the third set was a stroll. Murray won it in just 22 minutes, securing victory with a service winner.
Nieminen, Murray's next opponent, progressed when Igor Andreev retired when trailing 3-6, 6-2, 2-1. Murray has won all three of his previous meetings with the Finn and said he would look to attack the world No 48's serve.
Rafael Nadal, who shares the record of six French Open titles with Bjorn Borg, began his attempt to win for the seventh time in eight years with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory over the Italian Simone Bolelli.
Nadal's only defeat here was in the fourth round against Robin Soderling three years ago, when he wore a pink shirt. That did not stop the Spaniard taking to the court yesterday wearing a pink shirt and pink shoes with pink shoelaces. He made only 18 unforced errors to earn a place in the second round against Denis Istomin.
The next two Spaniards in the world rankings, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, who are similarly at home on clay, also progressed with straight-sets victories.
Ferrer beat Slovakia's Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-4, 6-1, while Almagro beat Italy's Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Alexandr Dolgopolov, the world No 19, went out of the tournament, beaten 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 by Sergiy Stakhovsky, of Ukraine.