MELBOURNE, Australia – Playing his first Grand Slam match as a major winner, Andy Murray looked quite comfortable in his return to the Australian Open.
Murray beat Robin Haase of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in the opening round at Melbourne Park Tuesday.
Asked what it felt like to play after his triumph at the U.S. Open, where he became the first British man since 1936 to win a major title, the third-ranked Murray said: “I can try and focus on the second part of my career now.”
The 25-year-old Murray seemed more at ease and relaxed than he has been in previous trips to the season’s first major.
“It was a good start, nice to win in straight sets,” he said. “It was the hottest day we’ve had for a while so the court was playing much quicker.”
After a record heat wave early last week, the last few days in Melbourne have been cool. The temperature was heading toward 84 degrees when Murray was on Rod Laver Arena.
It’s been 12 months since Murray started working with eight-time major winner Ivan Lendl, and he attributes much of the success in his breakthrough 2012 to his partnership with his new coach.
It’s relaxed “in front of the cameras, yeah,” Murray joked. “Behind closed doors he works me very hard.
“We’ve had a very good relationship so far. He’s very honest, very open. He doesn’t lie to you, he tells you exactly how it is and that’s exactly what I needed.”
In early women’s matches Tuesday, 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm upset No. 12-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia 6-2, 6-0, and former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki won the last six games to beat Sabine Lisicki of Germany 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Former U.S. Open and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova continued her comeback from a knee injury that kept her out of the U.S. Open, ending her run of 40 consecutive majors. Also, No. 14 Maria Kirilenko had a 6-4, 6-2 win over American Vania King, and China’s Peng Shuai beat Canada’s Rebecca Marino 6-3, 6-0.
Novak Djokovic started his bid for a third consecutive Australian title on Monday, posting a 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 win over Paul-Henri Mathieu.
“Hello, everybody, it’s great to be back,” he told the big crowd after his first match at Melbourne Park since his epic five-set win over Rafael Nadal in last year’s final. “I have great memories.”
David Ferrer, who took the No. 4 seed when fellow Spaniard Nadal withdrew because of illness and injury, had only a couple of hundred people watching in cavernous Hisense Arena on Day 1. He opened with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Olivier Rochus of Belgium.
Ferrer knows that without his compatriot in the draw, there’s a semifinal spot up for grabs, but he’s content to stay under the radar.
“Of course, Novak, Roger and Rafael and Murray – they’ve won Grand Slams,” he said. “It’s very difficult for (another) player to win the first Grand Slam of his career. For me, I am trying to do my best.”
The majors in 2012 were shared by Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Murray, the dominant four men in recent years.
Djokovic doesn’t have another Grand Slam winner in his half of the draw after his Serbian Davis Cup teammate Janko Tipsarevic ousted Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt, a former U.S. Open and Wimbledon winner.
Murray is in the same half of the draw as Federer, who was opening against Benoit Paire of France on Rod Laver Arena immediately after women’s champion Victoria Azarenka played Monica Niculescu of Romania.
Congestion on center court means Serena Williams, the big favorite to win the women’s title, will play her first-round match at Hisense Arena against Romania’s Edina Gallovits-Hall, who is ranked No. 110.
That’s the same court where her older sister, Venus, opened with a straight-set win Monday to move closer to a potential third-round match against No. 2 Maria Sharapova, who won her first match 6-0, 6-0 in 55 minutes.
Also advancing were No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 6 Li Na, No. 9 Samantha Stosur, No. 11 Marion Bartoli and No. 13 Ana Ivanovic and 17-year-old American Madison Keys.
On the men’s side, fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon finalist, beat American Michael Russell 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
Four American men also advanced Monday, led by No. 20 Sam Querrey, the highest-ranked U.S. man in the tournament after John Isner pulled out with an injury. Querrey beat Daniel Munoz-de la Nava of Spain 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
The others were Brian Baker, Tim Smyczek and Ryan Harrison, whose reward for beating Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 was a second-round match against Djokovic.