August 28, 2018
Andy Murray won his first Grand Slam match since Wimbledon 2017 in what he described as a ‘new beginning.’
Meet the new Scot. Just the same as the old Scot. Well not quite. Not yet anyway.
But at least he is feeling his way steadily and moving in the right general direction.
Other big stars can’t all say the same, despite their top billing.
Women’s number one seed Simona Halep crashed out at the very first hurdle, something no lady in her lofty position had ever done here before in the Open era.
Former US Open champion Murray doesn’t believe he is a serious contender in New York, whatever the optimists might read into his victory.
That is no bad thing.
Unlike Halep, he was not weighed down by universal expectation as he faced fellow struggler James Duckworth of Australia in his curtain-raiser.
But you could see the delight in Murray’s eyes as he hit celebration balls high into the upper tiers at Flushing Meadows when all was said and done.
It wasn’t a perfect return to the big time by any stretch. Andy squandered set points in the first and lost the subsequent tie-break.
At that point, Murray must have wondered whether he had four or perhaps even five sets in him.
‘It was quicker than anything I had done in practice here,’ he admitted of the opening set. ‘But my movement improved.’
Still Murray’s serve looked vulnerable, and he could have been given a code violation for some racquet throwing when that serve was duly broken.
Slowly but surely, however, the Scotsman’s court-craft came into play. And his confidence grew noticeably.
It must be said that Murray’s task was helped by Duckworth’s nerve-fuelled double faults at key moments.
But there were flashes of what made the Brit great in the first place as he gained momentum.
And he was able to book a place in the second round and a clash against the seasoned Fernando Verdasco by coming through 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
Such an achievement was beyond the top women’s seed, Simona Halep, who couldn’t cope with an Estonian whirlwind called Kaia Kanepi.
The underdog won 6-2, 6-4, even though Halep fought back from a double break down to reach second-set parity before tasting defeat.
Serena Williams was well aware that you are only as good as your last match and she has lost her share since reaching the 2018 Wimbledon final.
But she saved her best tennis for the second set against Magda Linette of Poland.
The point of the match showed a fit-again Serena scampering back and forth to do what it took to win an epic rally and go 3-0 clear in the second.
The warmth amd enthusiasm of the New York crowd at that moment and after her victory was unprecedented.
It seems that Serena, who talked once more of the pain of separation from her daughter as a working mother, grows in popularity by the day.
How sweet it would be if she won the US Open for the first time since becoming a parent.
And there was just time for more drama as Rafael Nadal won through in a match shortened by an injury to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in his last scheduled Slam before retirement.