Sports

Murray rallies to keep British hopes alive

Andy Murray of Britain hits a return to Ryan Harrison of the US during their men’s singles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 17, 2012. – Reuters picAndy Murray of Britain hits a return to Ryan Harrison of the US during their men’s singles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 17, 2012. – Reuters picMELBOURNE, Jan 17 – Britain’s Andy Murray got a first-set wake up call from Ryan Harrison but rallied to reach the second round of the Australian Open with an ultimately comfortable 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory today.

Losing finalist here for the last two years, the fourth seed is once again the last Briton standing at Melbourne Park but he was made to work hard for his passage in a physically testing encounter in front of his new coach Ivan Lendl.

“He was very happy,” Murray said of eight-times grand slam champion Lendl, who had sat typically stony-faced in the stands on a hot and humid afternoon in the Hisense Arena.

“He understands how you might be feeling at the start of a grand slam, what it’s like to play against someone that you haven’t played against, what it’s like playing in different conditions, how you feel in really warm conditions.

“It’s just good to have someone there that, you know, understands all of those things.”

For the first time in 20 years, six British players had reached the main draw at a grand slam apart from Wimbledon but five fell yesterday without winning a set between them.

With negotiations underway over a possible referendum on Scottish independence, it is conceivable that Britain could be robbed of its best tennis players over the next few years.

That would at least put paid to the hoary old joke that Murray is British, or even English, when he wins and Scottish when he loses.

For the moment, though, Murray plays under the Union flag and today he carried it into a second round tie against France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who went through when Xavier Malisse retired after the first set of their contest.

American Harrison was exactly the sort of opponent Murray would have wanted to avoid early in the tournament and the big-hitting teenager prevailed in some lengthy early rallies, one featuring 41 shots, to go a set up.

Murray tightened up his game, found his range and stormed back to take control of the match with a couple of early breaks in the second set, continuing his momentum into the third.

“Once I started moving better, I played better,” Murray said. “Last few sets were good.”

He clinched the match on his second match point when Harrison netted a forehand after more than three hours, leaving the impressed American tipping him to end Britain’s 76-year wait for a men’s champion in one of the sport’s top four tournaments.

“Andy has done pretty well for himself to get to three major finals,” he said. “I think he’s going to win a slam here pretty soon because he’s been in so many positions, it’s bound to happen.”

As for the lack of compatriots able to accompany him past the first round, Murray was not about to load ever more responsibility onto his shoulders.

“I’m not the person to be disappointed about that,” Murray said. “There are other people in charge that should be disappointed about it, not me.

“I’d rather there was more Brits winning, obviously, but it’s not for me to be disappointed.” – Reuters