Andy Murray reborn at Australian Open as path to final beckons
Wimbledon champion unleashes powerful backhand to demolish Soeda on return from injury
ANDY MURRAY returned to Grand Slam tennis at the Australian Open and picked up where he left off last summer, disposing of his first round opponent Go Soeda in straight sets in under 90 minutes.
The Wimbledon champion won 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in his biggest match since undergoing back surgery in September and looked good in the process.
The world No 4 "could not have asked for a much better re-introduction" to the big time, says The Guardian, and he "played with freedom and precision" to ease concerns about his back. "Nearly every department of Murray's game clicked, despite temperatures that hovered around 40C," adds the paper.
It "looked like he had never been away", says the Daily Telegraph. "In fact, it was better than that. Murray was a new man, almost literally, as he flew past Go Soeda in a mistral of booming serves and venomous backhand winners."
Particularly encouraging was his backhand, a shot Murray once relied on but struggled to play before his operation. "That shot was back today, and in spades," says the Telegraph. "It requires a particular combination of rotation and forward momentum that had until recently been causing Murray to clutch at his hip."
So impressive was Murray that some observers are even looking ahead to the latter stages of the tournament. "At the end, you could only marvel at some of the tennis he produced," writes Neil Harman in The Times. "No-one in the Open era has won the Australian Open having lost in three finals but as we have discovered in the past couple of years, Murray rather relishes standing convention on its head."
His path to the latter stages of the event does appear to be opening up, notes the Daily Mail. Murray meets French qualifier and left-hander Vincent Millot, ranked 155 places below Soeda, in the second round while his prospective fourth-round opponent John Isner was forced to pull out of his first round match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia.
Murray himself seemed upbeat afterwards. "When you haven't played for a while you're pretty stressed out beforehand. I will know the after-effects tomorrow," he admitted. "I have always had good support here, three finals, and a semi-final. But I'm lacking a bit of match practice and need all the crowd support I can get. I've played some of the best tennis of my career and it hasn't been good enough yet. Hopefully it will be this time."