• Queen's

Murray enjoys dream homecoming at Queen's

Nick Atkin at Queen's Club
June 11, 2014
Andy Murray beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4 6-4 © Getty Images

Back playing a competitive match on British soil for the first time since winning Wimbledon, Andy Murray enjoyed a dream homecoming as he dispatched Paul-Henri Mathieu to open the defence of his Queen's title.

Murray was afforded a hero's welcome as he stepped out onto a different Centre Court from the one he beat Novak Djokovic on in straights sets last July.

However the outcome was no different with Murray winning 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 26 minutes as he stretched his unbeaten streak on grass to 19 matches.

The win saw Murray get his new era under the guidance of the watching Amelie Mauresmo, who practiced with the Scot for the first time on Wednesday morning, off to the perfect start.

Rested after his exertions at the French Open, where he was dismantled by Rafael Nadal in just 100 minutes in the semi-finals on Friday, Murray looked in fine fettle as he began his bid for a fourth Queen's title.

Murray was in control throughout, all in all hitting 10 aces, winning 92 percent of his first service points and saving all three of the break points he faced.

He eased himself through the first set after a break in the first game of the match but had to wait slightly longer in the second set - until the seventh game, to be precise - before taking his second match point.

The emotion of such an occasion might have overwhelmed some, but Murray insisted he kept himself focused.

"I wasn't thinking too much about last year or anything," said Murray. "I was just trying to get off to a good start.

"I think because there is such a quick turnaround, you don't have time to think about anything else. You know there is going to be some nerves there because you haven't had the sort of preparation that you like.

"Also getting matches just now is important, to try and get some matches under your belt here if you can. Today was a good start.

"I was looking forward to getting back on the court. I enjoy playing here. I love being back on the grass."

A lot has happened to Murray since that triumph last summer.

It may not yet be Sir Andy to you and me, after he avoided the knighthood in the New Year Honours list that he would have no doubt humbly insisted he didn't deserve, despite the enormity of him ending Britain's 76-year wait for a male Wimbledon singles champion.

But picking up an OBE last October for his exploits the year before, when he broke his grand slam duck at the US Open after winning gold at London 2012, is nothing to shake a stick it.

Ivan Lendl, the man who inspired this most successful of periods in Murray's career, is no longer in the Scot's corner. Now it is the turn of Mauresmo, a fellow Wimbledon winner, who has been tasked with helping Murray win more grand slams.

There was September's back surgery that ruled Murray out of the season-ending ATP World Tour finals, which has hence delayed his homecoming with Britain's run to the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup played out on foreign soil.

Murray was then overcome with emotion when he received the Freedom of Stirling at his former school, Dunblane High, in April.

"It feels good to be home," Murray had said before wiping away tears. It was a microcosm of the whole emotional journey he has made since that historic day on July 7, when he achieved immortality.

Now Murray was home again, at a different abode but one no less appreciative of his achievements.

And perhaps befitting of the dream homecoming he was about to enjoy, Murray decided for his morning practice to hit with world No. 122 Denis Kudla - none other than one of the two men he dreamt he had beaten to win Wimbledon on the eve of last year's final, when his mind was "all over the place".

His mind was no doubt considerably more relaxed here.

Amelie Mauresmo and Andy Murray took the practice court together for the first time on Wednesday morning © Getty Images

Having been absent earlier in the week, former women's world No.1 Mauresmo quietly observed her new charge in practice on Wednesday morning, her arms often folded or tucked behind her back as she prowled the tramlines, enjoying the odd word or two with assistant coach Dani Vallverdu, who was far more hands on.

She watched with intent, as did a packed public gallery a further practice court down. There was a wave to them from Murray as he departed, after Mauresmo had taken her leave separately.

"I went on court with her the first time today. Nothing much is going to change there," admitted Murray.

"Any time you start new with anyone, it's obviously going to be slightly different. But, after a few matches, it just becomes the same as usual.

"We spoke a bit about the match and the tactics and then chatted a little bit afterwards. But this week, there's not going to be any big changes in my game. I also wouldn't expect any before Wimbledon.

"But we'll definitely work on some things after the tournament is finished here. We will chat about the stuff that I will be working on over the next few days, and then when I get the chance to after the tournament is finished here, I'll get four or five days of practice where I can work on some things."

Murray also confirmed that if he makes Mauresmo's appointment a long-term one following the conclusion of his grass-court season, he will be looking for her to commit more weeks on tour with him than Lendl did in the past.

"The communication and the relationship that you can build up with that person is going to decide whether it's going to work long term, because in terms of what she achieved on the court, then obviously, yeah, she knows how to win," Murray added.

"She was the best in the world. She won Wimbledon and major events. It's just off the court and when we're having discussions about tennis whether it clicks or not. We won't know just yet.

"It's not just me that makes the decision. If Amelie hates working with me and finds it very difficult being around me, then she won't want to do it either.

"I hope it works out long term because I like her. She's a good person."

Amelie Mauresmo watched on as Andy Murray defeated Paul Henri-Mathieu © Getty Images

Mauresmo took her place next to Vallverdu in the players' box as Murray took to the court, and it was more of the same from the Frenchwoman as she watched on pensively.

Murray broke Mathieu at the first opportunity, before saving a break point at 2-1 and going on to seal the game with an ace to maintain his advantage.

The Scot failed to take a set point at 5-3 up held to win the set 6-4.

Mathieu put up sterner resistance in the second set, edging a marathon rally in the fifth game that left Murray gasping for breath in a heap on the floor after a lunging passing shot that landed wide. The Frenchman held for 3-2.

Murray did likewise and then pounced, taking the second of two break points to lead 4-3 as Mathieu went long with a backhand.

Mathieu brought up two break-back points but Murray's first serve bailed him out as he survived both and moved within a game of the match.

Murray spurned his first match point as a forehand return found the net, as Mathieu kept himself alive with an exquisite lob to the back of the court to hold before the Scot comfortably did the same to seal the win.

In another twist of fate, Murray next faces Radek Stepanek, the other opponent besides Kudla in his "weird" dream ahead of last year's Wimbledon final. The mood Murray is in, Stepanek can surely only dream of halting the Scot's progress tomorrow.

Andy Murray says he doesn't expect to make any big changes to his game before Wimbledon © Getty Images

Nick Atkin is an assistant editor at ESPN. You can follow him on Twitter @NickAtkinESPN

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