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Clan Murray grab all the best seats for opening shots

IF the Royal Box yesterday had the air of a Murray family get-together, Amelie Mauresmo must have been the exotic French exchange student who is visiting for the summer.

Man of the moment . . . Andy Murray signs autographs following his defeat of David Goffin yesterday
Man of the moment . . . Andy Murray signs autographs following his defeat of David Goffin yesterday

As he commenced his defence of the Wimbledon title, Andy had sorted some of the best seats in the house for his grandparents, Roy and Shirley Erskine, his dad Willie and partner Samantha Watson, not to mention best pal Ross Hutchins.

Doing her best not to dangle an oversize saltire beside them was Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, but one man who definitely was oversize was basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal, who was doing his best to squeeze his 7ft-plus frame and ample behind into a bucket seat.

Mum Judy took her time-honoured place in the players' box, the same area where her son clambered up to 12 months previously to give her a kiss, but not until she had spent a typically busy morning knocking up with random kids stuck in the fabled All England Club queue and watching Johanna Konta's match in her capacity as Fed Cup captain. With Kim Sears as radiant as ever at one end of the row, for once all eyes were on the other woman in Andy Murray's life.

Murray's partnership with Mauresmo is the topic du jour at this year's Wimbledon. More column inches have been spent dissecting the merits or demerits of this arrangement than the Ukraine crisis, with a somewhat sour intervention from Virginia Wade only serving to keep the pot boiling. The 1977 winner here said on Saturday evening that she felt the Scot must have been kidding on when he appointed the 2006 winner as his coach, but the World No.5 certainly wasn't fooling around yesterday.

The Scot was determined to dispatch his Belgian opponent with the least fuss possible and the manner in which he did so would surely have been given pass marks by his new gaffer. You would have been hard pushed to tell, however, given that the default setting of the 34-year-old from the Parisien suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye appeared to be either sitting with her arms folded, or else propping her chin on her hands in contemplation like Auguste Rodin's The Thinker. Unlike Ivan Lendl, a man who was actually defined by his taciturn inactivity in the players' box, every now and then Mauresmo would break into a smile or expansively discuss some tactical point or other with Dani Vallverdu.

Coaching, of course, is still officially outlawed in the men's game - the WTA are permitting it on their tour events, but not in grand slams - but the sheer efficiency of Murray's play made this a match which rarely required too much in the way of secret hand gestures or fist pumping. It had always seemed like a long shot to look for any Jose Mourinho-style histrionics, such as a graceless dash along the tramlines in victory, or a sly dig at opposite number Thierry van Cleemput.

What we did get, however, was an affectionate standing ovation from all four corners of this grand old arena when the 27-year-old from Dunblane strode on court. While Murray appeared visibly moved by this, his opponent, David Goffin, seemed disorientated.

The world No.105, from Liege, had talked the talk about bringing the British sporting summer to a shuddering halt - he actually said English - but like that old joke about nothing of note ever coming out of Belgium, Goffin was never able to make this match interesting.

There were murmurs of approval when Goffin surrendered his serve for the first time with a forehand which flew long for 2-0, rapturous applause when a perfect Murray lob broke it again for 5-1. From that point on, the closest we had to a slip-up here were the greasy court conditions, which led to both men stumbling awkwardly.

The Centre Court crowd, on the other hand, were sitting comfortably. It wasn't until the third set that Goffin was able to force the Scot into some difficult situations of his own, Murray glancing up at Mauresmo in his box after saving a couple of break points. A fine running backhand pass down the line which brought up chalk dust was at least one memory for the Belgian to treasure forever.

But that was all it was. Because this, as big Shaq might say, was a Scottish slam dunk. It may also be the first step towards another slam.

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