Murray looks strong in first round of Japan Open, 3 weeks after US grand slam win

Olympic champion Andy Murray looked set to continue his record of success today as he beat the Croatian Ivo Karlovic in two sets in the first round of the Japan Open tennis tournament in Tokyo. The 25-year-old from Glasgow, Scotland won the match fairly comfortably, without having to face a single break point in his 7-6 (9/7), 6-4 victory.

Murray came to the Japan Open having just become the first British man in 76 years to win a men’s grand slam, beating Serbian Novak Djokovic to the title at the US Open last month. His match today was the first opportunity for fans to see him play since his epic win three weeks ago.

Though he appeared to make it through today’s first round of the Japan Open with ease, Murray admitted that it had not all been plain-sailing. He called the Croatian, currently the number 80 seed, a “tricky player”, adding, “playing against him you know it is going to be uncomfortable.” Murray was not originally set to play Karlovic, but the line-up was changed after his French opponent, Gaël Monfils, withdrew from the tournament with a knee injury. Karlovic was called to play Murray as a lucky loser from qualifying. The Scotsman, currently third in the world rankings, was, however, able to deal with these last minute complications, as he was informed of the change the night before the match. He commented, “A good thing was I found last night that I was going to play Karlovic, so I had the evening to think about the match a little bit and I was able to practise this morning…I was able to practise things I need to when I play against a big server and someone who comes into the net a lot.” Murray was also helped by the reasonable weather in Tokyo, with a pleasant breeze taking the edge off the humidity of Japan’s capital of recent days.

In other first round matches of the tournament, Jeremy Chardy of France beat Japan’s Yuichi Sugita 6-1, 7-5, Tommy Robredo of Spain took the victory over Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 6-2, 6-4, and Dmitry Tursunov of Russia downed Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-4, 7-5. Local crowds were also treated to an exciting match between Japanese players (and Davis Cup teammates) Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda. Nishikora eventually rose to victory, winning with two sets to one (4-6, 6-2, 6-3).

Murray will now be up against the Slovakian, Lukas Lacko, on Wednesday in the second round of the tournament. Lacko, currently seeded 66th, defeated the Spanish player Albert Ramos yesterday to make it through to face the Briton. Murray will be hoping to make it to the final on Sunday, in order defend his title of Japan Open champion.

Sources include: The Guardian, BBC News, Rakuten Open

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