Andy Murray's attempt to convert Olympic gold into Grand Slam silverware got off to a winning start on the first day of the US Open here yesterday. As is so often the case, however, the 25-year-old Scot took a circuitous route before arriving at his final destination.
Murray, who beat Russia's Alex Bogomolov 6-2, 6-4, 6-1, never looked in danger of losing to the world No 73, but left plenty of room for improvement, particularly on his serve. The world No 4 put only 50 per cent of his first serves in court - in the first set only eight out of 29 of his first serves found their target - and was broken four times in the match.
Given that Murray broke Bogomolov's serve nine times it was of little consequence, but he will not be able to afford such a ragged display of serving in future. In the second round Murray will face the world No 118, Croatia's Ivan Dodig, who beat Hiroki Moriya, of Japan, 6-0, 6-1, 6-2.
"I did OK," Murray said afterwards. "I was struggling on serve but managed to come through. That's the most important thing. The conditions were tricky. It was very windy. It's slower out there. It's about getting used to playing on that court when it's breezy and you have to do a lot of running and defending. I struggled with that but did well when I needed to."
Bogomolov beat Murray in their first meeting in Miami last year, but the Scot has won their two subsequent encounters. Having enjoyed the best year of his career last year, the 29-year-old Russian has struggled to maintain his improvement in 2012. This was his 14th first-round defeat in the last seven months.
The conditions in Arthur Ashe Stadium on a hot and humid day were difficult, with a stiff breeze troubling both men on their serves. Murray and Bogomolov had been kept waiting for nearly two hours after a rainstorm held up play just 90 minutes after the start of the year's final Grand slam tournament.
While Murray struggled on his serve, the other departments of his game looked in good shape. He struck the ball well from the back of the court and for the most part had too much nous for Bogomolov, whose limitations were quickly exposed.
However, Murray began poorly. In the opening game the world No 4 hit a double fault and then put a backhand and a forehand in the net to drop serve immediately. At 2-2 both players had dropped serve twice and in the following game Murray held only after saving two break points.
Nevertheless, Bogomolov was having even more trouble on his serve. The Russian was broken in all four of his service games in the first set, winning only nine out of 27 points. He went 2-0 up in the second set, but Murray broke back for 4-4 and promptly broke again to take the second set after an hour and a half.
The trade in broken serves continued in the third set. This time it was Murray who took a 2-0 lead, only to be broken for the fourth time in the following game, but the Scot quickly resumed his assault on the Russian's serve to close out the match after two and a quarter hours.
Murray was suffering from cramp in the closing stages. "I was struggling a little bit," he admitted. "There were a lot of long games, long points. We both did a lot of running. I sweated a lot and it was just a little bit of cramp. I need to make sure I stay better hydrated."
He added: "I thought it was a six or seven out of 10. I didn't serve particularly well at the beginning, but I won in straight sets against a tough player and that's what I needed to do."
Dodig, Murray's next opponent, reached a career-high No 32 in the world rankings last year, when he won his only title, in Zagreb, but the 27-year-old Croatian has since dropped 86 places. He has never gone beyond the second round of a Grand Slam tournament.