Tennis

Murray starts title defense with win

Andy Murray, of Britain, chases down a return against Michael Llodra
Andy Murray chases down a return against Michael Llodra.
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NEW YORK (AP)

After waiting his entire career to get the chance to defend a Grand Slam title, Andy Murray had to wait a little more.

And he was hardly pleased with the way the scheduling was handled.

Once the 2012 champion finally did get on court at the US Open, playing his first point of this year's tournament at 9:55 p.m. ET Wednesday, Murray wasted little time moving into the second round, playing nearly flawlessly in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 49th-ranked Michael Llodra of France.

''Playing at that time for your first round is not ideal,'' the third-seeded Murray said.

''We were told on Saturday, `Would you like to play on Tuesday or Wednesday?' We said, `Tuesday.' They then told us the next day, `It's looking like it's going to be Wednesday. . . . It will be during the day on Wednesday,' '' Murray explained. ''Yesterday, as we were leaving . . . we were told, `It's looking like you're going to be playing in the evening.' ''

Four hours of rain delays earlier in the day pushed back action, and then Murray's match was preceded in Arthur Ashe Stadium by 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro's win, which lasted more than four hours.

Murray wondered aloud why his match couldn't have been shifted to a different court, just to make sure it would get fit in by day's end.

''When the weather's like that, it's distressing for everyone — for the referees, the organizers, for the players. You just want to get on the court and play,'' he said. ''Whether it's on Arthur Ashe or Court 15, it doesn't really matter. You just want to play your match.''

Murray, who last month became the first British man in 77 years to win Wimbledon, did not seem bothered too much by all the fuss once he was across the net from Llodra. Murray made only five unforced errors while compiling 34 winners in the 1-hour, 38-minute match.

Still, by the time they got around to playing, it marked the third-latest start to a US Open night session, according to the US Tennis Association.

''I'm very happy everyone stayed behind to watch,'' Murray told the spectators in a postmatch interview. ''I know it was late, but it made it special to come back to a full house.''

In the second round, the Scot will play 81st-ranked Leonardo Mayer of Argentina. Mayer, who beat Victor Hanescu of Romania 7-6 (4), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4) Wednesday, said that to win, ''I will need to play very inspired.''

Mayer noted it would help, too, if Murray ''also plays badly.''

Despite the lopsided scoreline, Murray and Llodra put on an entertaining show. Llodra is an old-school, serve-and-volley player, and he even mixed in one underhand serve and a between-the-legs shot Wednesday.

''It's tough to concentrate, because he's so unpredictable. . . . You've just got to be ready for anything,'' Murray said. ''It's always fun playing against him, but it's tough.''

The only real glitch for Murray came at the outset of the second set, when he fell behind 3-0. But from there, he quickly turned things around, and finished that set with flair, coming up with a backpedaling, over-the-shoulder, hook shot volley winner while serving it out at love.

By the end, Llodra was darting and diving all over the place, laying out for one drop volley and tumbling to the court as Murray raced over to smack a backhand winner down the line, then allowed himself a smile. On match point, with Llodra up at the net with arms spread wide, Murray flipped a lob winner, and they exchanged grins.

All in all, is was a far more relaxed Murray than the one who struggled through a dramatic five-set victory over Novak Djokovic in last year's final in New York.'

Del Potro also waited out the rain, but he had a more grueling first-round match. The 2009 champion was frustrated by 74th-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez's repeated calls for a trainer to work on his left leg. Del Potro, seeded sixth, rallied from a break down in the last set to win 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (7) in 4 hours, 13 minutes.

The Spaniard saved three match points in the final tiebreaker before del Potro put him away with an emphatic backhand winner.

Garcia-Lopez upset 10th-seeded Juan Monaco in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the first round at Flushing Meadows last year.

''I think of all of the matches of the first round, I had the toughest one,'' del Potro said.

During a fourth-set changeover, del Potro testily questioned whether Guillermo-Lopez was allowed to receive treatment.

''I just lost track of the number of times he asked for the trainer,'' he said after the match. ''At the same time, I was also a bit annoyed with myself.''

Garcia-Lopez snapped back when del Potro started asking the chair umpire about the visits from the trainer.

''I don't know what exactly he told me,'' Garcia-Lopez said. ''I have no issues with him. I only told him that whatever he needs to say, he has to say it to my face. I asked him what did he say and he didn't reply.''

No. 17 Kevin Anderson, No. 21 Mikhail Youzhny and 109th-ranked American wild-card entry Tim Smyczek were among the other men's winners Wednesday.

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