Murray looks to avoid history as he starts Wimbledon defence

23 June 2014 / 08:24

He's made the right sort of history, now Andy Murray must look to avoid a place in the record books for all the wrong sort of reasons.

Murray starts his Wimbledon title defence against 23-year-old Belgian David Goffin this afternoon knowing only two defending champions - Manuel Santana in 1967 and Lleyton Hewitt in 2003 - have lost when they've opened the championships on Centre Court the following year.

But Murray's All England Club record is impressive - he's reached the last four for the last five years and you need to go back until nine years for the last time he didn't make the second week, a third round elimination in the first of his eight appearances.

However, only tennis legends Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have defended their titles in the open era - underlining the difficulty of the task that lies ahead.

"It's definitely a different feeling coming back here as the defending champion, after putting all that pressure on myself to win, I'm much more relaxed," said Murray.

"Returning as defending champion is very special and I'm sure the support I get will be just as fired up as every year, once you've done something amazing once you want to do it again.

"But I'm not thinking about last year, I'm concentrating on this year's tournament and that's it.

"I've a tricky first round opponent. He played some good tennis at the Slams and he's not afraid of the big stage. He pushed Roger to four sets at the French Open a few years ago, he's solid in all parts of the court.

"There are butterflies about starting the championships as the defending champion. I don't know if I'm able to deal with them, we'll find out because it's something I've never had to do before."

No-one knows more about what it's like to open proceedings at Wimbledon - and successfully defend your title two weeks later - than Federer.

The seven-time champion won five straight between 2003 and 2008, bettering the achievement of Sampras and setting an open era record at the All England Club.

And the number four seed believes Murray will be the one to beat again - despite missing four months at the end of last season after undergoing back surgery.

"I think he is where he wants to be before Wimbledon, in my opinion," said Federer.

"Clearly in a perfect world you don't want to have surgery, looking back one year ago.  I still think he's good enough now to defend again; whereas maybe three to four to five months ago, honestly I wasn't sure about that.

"But now I think the way he's playing, the way he's got himself back into shape again, I think he can really believe again.  

"Being the defending champion is never an easy thing.  But then again, he has played so well on grass the last few years - winning the Olympics, winning Wimbledon, winning Queen's last year.  

"So he knows how it's done, I would feel comfortable if I was Andy at this point."

But top seed Novak Djokovic, who Murray beat in last year's final and could be a potential semi-final opponent, admits additional pressure and responsibility comes with being a defending champion.

"It's easier being one of the guys that is fighting for a trophy and chasing the champion down, it adds a little bit more pressure," said Djokovic, who lost to Federer in the semi-finals of his title defence in 2012.

"I'm sure that Andy, with all the experience he has playing in the big matches, and especially here in front of his home crowd, understands and knows how to handle the expectation.

"Now being defending champion, and this country having a British champion after so many years, of course there is a huge relief and I'm sure that he feels that as a positive too.

"Because as the years went by, as he was getting better as a player, getting closer to this title, I think the pressure was building up too much.  

"I think he mentally a matured a lot in the last couple years.  Winning the Olympic Games and Wimbledon definitely helped his character, helped his mental strength and he'll be tough to beat."

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