Andy Murray

Andy Murray a man on a mission as he slides past Peniston

This was certainly no Battle of Brits, it was barely a skirmish, far from a struggle and, in truth, hardly a contest.

In recent years Andy Murray has made five set epics under Wimbledon’s roof something of a specialty but he was clearly a man on a mission against compatriot Ryan Peniston.

He took bang on two hours to progress to the second round in straightforward straight sets 6-3 6-0 6-1, his best first round match in 15 career appearances at the All England Club.

Indeed, this was his best performance at SW19 since dropping just two games against Slovenia’s Blaž Rola in the second round nine years ago, back in his twenties prime when he wasn’t a father of four, his knees were creak-free and he didn’t have a metal hip.

Teatime thrillers may have become the two-time champion’s more recent trademark but Peniston, who made an initially bright start, soon stuttered under the intense spotlight.

A royal audience is always nerve-wracking but imagine being watched by future Queen and the former ‘King’, the Princess of Wales sat next to eight-time champion Roger Federer in the Royal Box.

Murray and Federer had some storied tussles on this court – the Scot winning the Olympic title against his Swiss rival in 2012 but losing in the Wimbledon final that year and semi-final three years later.

However, you rather sensed Federer was pulling for his old rival, as he looked benevolently down on the court where he long held court.

“It was amazing to have some royalty here and some tennis royalty as well, it’s great to have Roger here supporting the event,” said Murray.

“The last time I was on this court and he was watching it, it was the Olympics and he was sat in Stan Wawrinka’s box supporting against me!

“It’s amazing to be back here playing on Centre Court. I was quite nervous at the beginning and I wanted to play well but once I got the break in that first set I think I played some good stuff, there were good signs there.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt physically this good coming into Wimbledon. The last few years have been challenging. I’m hoping I’m fit and ready for a good run.

“As the match went on, my unforced errors got cut out and I was pretty ruthless in the second and third sets. I never let my intensity drop and that’s really encouraging.

“I always get nervous at the beginning of Wimbledon, I like to feel like that, it’s a good sign.”

For many years British players fought against the notion that Wimbledon was the be-all and end-all for their seasons. It was simplistic and unfair to judge entire careers purely on the strength of this fortnight, rather than the toil of the other 50 weeks on the road.

Murray though has made no secret, aged 36, that Wimbledon is the priority target, the place where he still feels competitive, despite his world No.40 ranking.

He swerved the French Open to prepare for the grass court campaign and while long-time rival Novak Djokovic claimed his historic 23rd major title at Roland Garros, the Scot was grinding away to secure Challenger Tour wins at Surbiton and Nottingham.

“I’ve had lots of pretty long matches in Grand Slams in the last few years, any time you get the chance to finish the match quickly and conserve some energy in a really positive thing,” added Murray.

“Hopefully the deeper I go into the tournament, the fresher I will be.”

There are 228 world ranking places between Murray and Peniston, who grew up idolising the two-time champion and claimed he nearly crashed his car when he heard about this first round draw.

However, ranking points barely tell the story – Peniston has played just seven matches on the ATP Tour and has lost them all, Murray has played nearly a 1000 – this win his 199th in Grand Slams and his 61st at Wimbledon.

“Andy was just relentless on every single point,” said Peniston, an occasional practice partner of the former world No.1.

“I had quite a few games where I was 30-love up but he just didn’t stop fighting and that’s why the scoreline looks like that. He just played a really clean match throughout and didn’t really give me a chance.

“He is where he is because of the way he practices, he’s the same in training as he is on the court, he’s absolutely on every ball.

“Can he win the whole thing? I think why not? Why can’t he?”

Next up for Murray is either Austria’s Dominic Thiem or Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, the No.5 seed, the former taking an early set lead when they were forced them off, less than ten matches completed on Tuesday’s rain-sodden schedule.

Former US Open winner Thiem has played Murray five times and the Scot edges their record 3-2, though they’ve never played on grass.

Tsitsipas, whose Wimbledon record is best described as sketchy, has won one, lost one against Murray, including a defeat on grass in Stuttgart last year.

However, it’s worth noting there are just two players in the draw that know what it’s like to win the men’s singles – defending champion Djokovic and Murray, a winner in 2013 and 2016.

“I’ll definitely watch their game to see what they are doing and how they are playing,” said Murray.

“I think I’m playing well enough to beat most of the players in this draw, I feel really good.

“I haven’t looked at the draw, I’ve got no idea who is in my section. I didn’t know I’d be playing Thiem or Tsitsipas until someone told me the other day.

“There’s no guarantees anyone wins, so my mind is just on the next match. They are both players with great pedigree with lots of Slam experience.”

For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA website

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