LONDON – It had been, famously, more than 75 years since a British man arrived at Wimbledon as the defending champion.
So Andy Murray took a moment — and, really, only a moment — to take in the sights and sounds Monday at Centre Court as nearly 15,000 spectators, including former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal up in the Royal Box, rose to greet him with a raucous standing ovation.
Murray’s parents and grandparents were present. So, of course, was his much-discussed recent choice as coach, Amelie Mauresmo. The other player, 105th-ranked David Goffin of Belgium, was little more than a bystander for the proceedings, which wrapped up a little more than two hours after they began with a 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory for Murray.
“I was pretty nervous and stuff before the match. Then when you’re walking to the court — I have a lot of memories, obviously, from last year. To come to the court and get that reception, it was very nice,” said Murray, who last year became the first man from Britain since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the nation’s most prestigious tennis tournament.
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That title for Perry was his third in a row at the All England Club, but he did not try for another one in 1937.
Murray heeded advice from Mauresmo, the 2006 women’s champion at Wimbledon, who told him to soak in everything while walking out to play because, as he put it, “You never know if you’ll get the chance to do it again.”
He responded to the crowd’s reaction with a quick wave and a glance around the stadium.
“Enjoyed it for the walk to the chair,” Murray said. “Then when I sat down, it was time to get on with business.”
He certainly took care of that, finishing with a mere 10 unforced errors and saving the only two break points he faced. He pounded serves at up to 131 mph.
The man Murray beat in last year’s final, No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia, also won in easy fashion, taking the first 11 games en route to beating 56th-ranked Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-1, 6-4.
All in all, it was a relatively quiet start to a tournament that a year ago was as tumultuous as ever, including exits by the end of the second round for past champions Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova. That trio, along with five-time champion and No. 1-seeded Serena Williams, plays opening matches Tuesday.
Williams’ older sister, Venus, won Monday for her first victory at Wimbledon since 2011. But there were losses for 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur, 18th-seeded Sloane Stephens and 27th-seeded Garbine Muguruza, a 20-year-old Spaniard who surprisingly beat Serena Williams in the second round of the French Open last month.
American Stephens had reached at least the fourth round at six consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, the longest active streak for a woman, but she lost to Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-2, 7-6 (8-6).
Muguruza saved a hard-to-believe 12 match points but couldn’t erase No. 13, double-faulting twice in a row to lose 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to 22-year-old American CoCo Vandeweghe, ranked 51st.