LONDON – Andy Murray arrived on Centre Court to a standing ovation and left to another.
After ending Britain’s 77-year wait for a homegrown men’s champion at Wimbledon last year, Murray got off to a strong start Monday in his bid to become the first to retain the title since Fred Perry in 1936.
In keeping with tradition, Murray had the honor of playing the opening match on Centre Court as the defending men’s champion — and looked right at home in beating David Goffin 6-1, 6-4, 7-5.
Murray broke the 105th-ranked Belgian four times, saved the only two break points against him and sealed the contest with an ace, his eighth of the match. It was Murray’s 450th tour-level match win.
Top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who lost to Murray in last year’s final, also put on a commanding performance in his opening-round match on Centre Court. The Serbian won the first 11 games and swept to a 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 win over Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan in less than 90 minutes.
Murray received a huge ovation when he strode onto the court where he beat Djokovic a year ago, soaking in the applause and giving a wave to the crowd — including those fans who queued up for tickets overnight for the rare chance to see a reigning British champion.
“It was nice,” Murray said. “I was nervous this morning, nervous yesterday. Walking through brings back a lot of good memories.”
Among those in the Royal Box for the occasion were Murray’s father and grandparents and retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, dressed in suit and tie. Murray chatted briefly with the 216-cm Shaq after the match.
“He’s a big boy, that’s for sure,” Murray said. “He was huge.”
Murray was on top of his game from the outset, sailing through the first set in 29 minutes, and closing out the second with an ace. Goffin, who stands 180 cm with a slight build, was overpowered for the first two sets but raised his level in the third and pushed Murray hard.
“In the second and third sets I thought the standard was very high,” Murray said. “He came up with some unbelievable passing shots. I was glad to finish it in three.”
Djokovic, meanwhile, never faced a break point in his dominant victory against the 56th-ranked Golubev, who fell to his 10th consecutive loss on grass. The score was 6-0, 5-0 before Golubev finally won a game. It was Djokovic’s first grass-court match of the year.
“It was a great start, especially in the first two sets,” Djokovic said. “I cannot be happier.”
In women’s play, second-seeded Li Na of China advanced with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Paula Kania of Poland. Li, the 2011 French Open champion, rallied to win the final four games of the first set after being down a service break at 5-3.
Five-time champion Venus Williams won her first singles match at Wimbledon since 2011, posting a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor of Spain. Williams lost in the first round in 2012 and missed last year’s tournament because of a back injury.
Misaki Doi got off to a impressive start in her first round match against Elina Svitolina with a 6-4, 6-1 triumph.
Doi used a pinpoint forehand and capitalized on her opponent’s soft second serve to win with relative ease in just over an hour at the All England Club. This was Doi’s first victory at Wimbledon since reaching the third round in 2011.
Kimiko Date-Krumm took Ekaterina Makarova right down to the wire but eventually lost to the 22nd seed in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.