The foundations of Andy Murray’s renewed partnership with Ivan Lendl look to be settling down like steel rods on a building site, and both of them will be delighted with his second quick win of the week.
After losing the first two games, Murray allowed Taiwan’s 32-year-old Lu Yen‑hsun just four more over an hour and 40 minutes – two minutes longer than it took him to send Liam Broady home on Tuesday.
What a contrast to his struggle in Paris, where it took him 10 sets to get into the third round. And he should not be detained much longer in his next match, against the Australian John Millman, who took nearly three hours to defeat the Spanish veteran Albert Montañés in five sets in the first round and two and a half to get past Benoît Paire in four sets on Thursday.
Murray’s split from Amélie Mauresmo at the start of the clay season is parked firmly in the past and he is playing the sort of tennis that won him the title here three years ago, when Lendl was his guide, muse and rock-like inspiration.
The scoreline on a mild afternoon, with the roof open and rain threatening, told the tale of growing dominance: 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.
“The first set was tough,” he said courtside. “I went down a break, there were a lot of close games, but I managed to hang on. He had break points at 5-3. Then I settled down, hitting the balls much cleaner. At the end, there were a few raindrops starting and you could see the groundsman come to the edge of the court. Thankfully I had a decent lead. When the rain is coming you’re quite anxious to come off.”
As for the speed of his win, he said: “If you can win a match easily that’s good. You don’t want to drain yourself mentally. I just want to keep my head down and have a good tournament.”
The odds on that are shortening by the day. The statistics told a tale of a player in control of his own game and that of his opponent. Six aces helped but he was strong on second serve too, winning 19 of 30 points there, and his defence was solid from start to finish. He hit just 12 unforced errors to his opponent’s 25, many of those coming in a rush at the end.
There is a subtle but lethal dilemma at work with all elite players when they meet lesser opponents in the early rounds of a slam: how to win clearly without leaving too much on court. Murray pretty much managed it during a rare spell of milky sunshine.
Lu landed the first punch, a drop shot that caught Murray languishing on the ropes, and patrons thought the No2 seed had a fight on his hands.
There is a sound theory in tennis that, once the serve has been neutralised, the rally that follows should be conducted on roughly level terms – and so it ensued, in one tight exchange after another until the second turning point of the set when Murray forced Lu to try for an over-ambitious angled chip in the sixth game, and he got back on level terms. Parity restored, Murray relaxed a little. His racket sliced the air more easily and the ball left it with surety.
Lu, meanwhile, was lucky to be in the tournament, let alone contention. He has missed four months of the season since an operation on his right elbow, yet strung together 11 wins on grass to get this far, having arrived with two Challenger trophies to his name. Murray has had the five matches at Queen’s – where he won a record fifth title – and his straightforward workout against Broady.
When he won three games in a row to straddle the end of the first set and the start of the second, Murray was in a groove, although was still working hard for every point, a hunt-down and forehand slapped winner in the second game particularly memorable. After an hour and a quarter, he was two sets up and coasting.
Not everyone was having such a tranquil afternoon. On nearby Court 17, Viktor Troicki gave the chair umpire, Nacho Forcadell, the sort of abuse – for a dubious line call that gave Albert Ramos-Viñolas match point – that might have resulted in arrest anywhere outside a sporting arena. The Spaniard won the match and, when the Serb eventually left court, he thrashed his racket into the walkway outside, where the splinters of it were gleefully hoovered up by mystified fans.
Earlier, Gilles Simon also imploded. He threatened to sue the tournament and the chair umpire, Mariana Alves, for refusing to halt a match the Frenchmanconsidered dangerous underfoot. Whatever the legitimacy of his complaint about a damp surface, the conditions did not stop Grigor Dimitrov winning in four sets.
While all this was going on, Murray proceeded serenely. The coup de grace was relatively clean, painless and inevitable. Lu, serving to stay in the match, struggled to match the placement and speed of Murray’s closing ground strokes, handing him two match points then dumped a double fault into the net.