Tennis royalty take center stage as Federer cheers Murray to victory | Wimbledon 2023

While an old master watched, another moved on. Roger Federer was back at Wimbledon, nodding in approval in the royal box, as Andy Murray started the second round with a 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 win over England’s Ryan Peniston.

It was Murray’s most emphatic victory here since 2014, and afterwards he issued a bullish note on his chances – and indicated that heavy rain on Tuesday could help him go further in the tournament.

“It’s been a long time since I felt physically good coming to Wimbledon,” he said. “I’m in good shape and ready for a good race. And I play well enough to beat most players in the draw if I play well.

Murray will have an advantage on the schedule after bad weather left his next opponent – either No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or former US Open champion Dominic Thiem – having to finish his game on Wednesday.

“It’s difficult for the players who have been knocked out. But any time you have the chance to finish a game quickly and can save some energy, that’s a really positive thing. Hopefully more j will go into the tournament, the fresher I will be.

When play stopped on Court No. 2, Thiem had a 6-4, 3-4 lead. But whoever passes, Murray clearly imagines his chances of winning. And why not? Even at 36, and with that metal hip, Murray keeps saying he’s still one of the world’s best players on grass. It’s a defiant mantra but it also carries a thrill of truth.

When you knock out Novak Djokovic and world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz, who else is clearly better? Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios are injured, Daniil Medvedev and Casper Ruud seem allergic to the green stuff, and the rest of the NextGen stars – Holger Rune, Seb Korda, Jannik Sinner – are still adjusting.

Murray was certainly heartened by his first straight sets victory at Wimbledon since 2017, as well as the sight of the Princess of Wales and Federer cheering him on.

“It was amazing to have royalty and also tennis royalty here,” he said, as center court roared his approval. Federer was then asked for his assessment. “Alright,” he replied, with more laughter and cheers.

Roger Federer and the Princess of Wales watch Andy Murray in action from the royal box
Roger Federer and the Princess of Wales watch Andy Murray in action from the royal box. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Afterward, Murray said he enjoyed having Federer, who he’s fought here many times, to watch. “I didn’t find it strange,” he said. “It was good to have him there. Pete Sampras sat up there and watched Roger and Rafa. And Rod Laver was in a lot of games at the Australian Open.

There wasn’t much to thrill the crowd, at least at first. The pair practiced a lot together, which may have helped explain the choppy first set, which was played to polite applause and the incessant patter of rain on the roof of center court.

But after saving break points at 1-1 and 2-2, Murray began to find his rhythm. It helped that Peniston was handing out cheap freebies too, with a backhand error in the tram lines securing Murray’s first break of the game at 4-2.

Soon Murray also had the first set to his name, but the intermittent quality came down to the fact that between them they had hit 10 winners and 27 unforced errors in the opening stanza. “I was quite nervous at first, but once I got the break in the first set, I played some good stuff. There were good signs there.

Murray was certainly a different player after that. He broke immediately at the start of the second and raced through the set, winning it at love, before taking the third 6-1. “As the game progressed, the unforced errors, I removed them. I was pretty ruthless at the start of the second and third sets. There was no kind of drop in intensity or anything. I got ahead early in those sets, I did well.

Peniston, 27 – who suffered from rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, which initially inhibited his growth as a child – deserves big credit for his game. But although he has a reasonable pedigree on grass for someone ranked 268th in the world, having beaten two of the top 10 players in Ruud and Rune last year, he had no answer to Murray’s silent dissection.

“I had quite a few games where I had 30 love, things like that, and I had game points,” Peniston said. “But he was relentless in every way. That’s why the score was as it was.

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