Andy Murray kicked off his first Grand Slam as world No 1 at the Australian Open by defeating Ukrainian Illya Marchenko in straight sets, and the Brit says finally being on top doesn’t change a thing.
The 29-year-old took two hours and 48 minutes to beat Marchenko 7-5 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 in the sweltering Melbourne heat – temperatures hit 32 degrees Celsius, which are projected to rise considerably to at least 38 during the next few days of play.
Speaking after his first round, hard-fought victory over the world No 95, Murray says it’s been a long, demanding road to be considered the best, but recent heightened pressure and expectation to win are still present.
“It’s been tough but I’ve finally managed to get there,” he said.
“At the end of last year it felt great, the last three or four months were really, really tough physically and mentally.
“The ranking doesn’t change things. Same pressure, same expectation, you know, I’ve never won here, lost in the final a few times so I’m hoping to go one better next year.”
The reigning double Olympic champion has reached the Australian Open final five times – his most recent being a three-set defeat to Novak Djokovic in 2016, and the pair are scheduled to meet again at the final hurdle in this year’s competition.
Murray’s next assignment is a second round tie against 19-year-old Russian, Andrey Rublev, on Wednesday January 18.
Rublev shocked Yen-Hsun Lu in round one, overcoming the Chinese Taipei native in four sets 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-0) 6-3. Murray admits he hasn’t had the opportunity to play against the Russian, but has seen him in action at Flushing Meadows.
“I know a little bit about him,” the three-time Grand Slam winner said. “I’ve never hit with him, or played against him, but I’ve seen him play.
“He goes for it. He doesn’t hold back. I saw him play a couple of years ago at the US Open against [Mikhail] Youzhny, I thought he’s a very good, clean ball striker.”
Speaking on his preparation for taking on the world No 152, Murray said: “Obviously when you get out there, things look a little different than they might on the TV or video but I’ll try to watch a bit the next couple of days and hopefully go in with a good strategy, but I’ll need to work some things out myself when I’m out there.”