Andy Murray beats Go Soeda in Australian Open first round
Britain's Andy Murray made the ideal start to his Australian Open campaign with a quick win over Japan's Go Soeda in searing heat.
On a day that saw the temperature exceed 40C, the Wimbledon champion spent just 87 minutes securing a place in round two with a 6-1 6-1 6-3 victory.
Murray, who was playing only his third competitive match since returning from back surgery, will face France's Vincent Millot, the world number 267, in round two.
He might have expected to avoid the worst of Tuesday's heat with his match scheduled not before 5pm local time.
The soaring temperature had been widely forecast and there seemed every chance that the tournament's 'extreme heat policy' would be in force by the time the Scot took to Hisense Arena, which has a retractable roof and air-conditioning.
In the event, play continued uninterrupted around Melbourne Park, but the roof played its part in providing shade across the court as Murray and Soeda got under way in a stifling 41C.
"You're obviously a bit nervous and apprehensive about it," said Murray. "For a number of reasons I was nervous because this, for me, was a big test playing in these conditions.
"Obviously, when the shadow came across the court it cooled down a bit but the air is extremely warm. It's not the easiest conditions I've played in. If you were playing on the outside courts in the sun, that would have been worse.
"Most of the players are conditioned well enough to last in that weather for that amount of time but doing it to three or four hours is tough to recover from."
Soeda, the world number 112, posed little threat after a solid opening service game and Murray took a grip on the match, moving well and breaking twice to win the first set with a flurry of winners.
Murray had made a similarly impressive start in his only other tour match of note this year against Florian Mayer in Doha on New Year's Day, only to fade dramatically as a lack of match practice caught up with him.
A fortnight on, and back in the Grand Slam spotlight, there was no sign of him faltering.
He powered through nine straight games, securing a two-set lead with successive aces after just 49 minutes, and clinched the decisive break at 3-3 the third.
A small but vociferous band of Murray supporters had done their best to impart some energy into the sparse crowd on Hisense, despite the sultry conditions, and the fourth seed played his part with some blistering winners in the closing stages.
Murray fired one huge forehand winner as he broke for a seventh time to wrap up a highly satisfactory day's work.
"The signs have been good in practice and I did everything solidly," said Murray when asked about his form and fitness. "I felt freer today than I've done in the last 18 months.
"I'm confident I'm going to be OK, but these hard courts, these tournaments are tough on the body so it's going to be a test for me."