Andy Murray eases past Paul-Henri Mathieu on green grass of home 

Andy Murray

New coach, new surface, new haircut – there has been plenty for Andy Murray to adjust to in recent days but his first match on grass since his Wimbledon victory produced a familiar result as the Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu was dispatched 6-4, 6-4 in 86 minutes.

Murray was pleased about how quickly he had slipped back into his grass-court groove. His first serve, which packs more of a punch on Queen’s faster courts, worked nicely. His backhand slice, which is often a defensive measure, found its length quickly and was a weapon. He moved fluently. And while there was the occasionally rueful “Yeah” after a Mathieu return wrong-footed him, he won 92% of his first-serve points and was not broken.

“It was a good start,” Murray said. “I served pretty well and we played some good rallies. It’s not that easy to switch surfaces. The hardest part is getting used to the movement. Your body gets used to sliding into shots on clay but it’s a really bad habit on grass. It’s not particularly efficient and you can hurt yourself.”

There was little chance of the court or the opponent hurting Britain’s No1. Mathieu was once ranked as high as No12 in the World but he has steadily slipped to 92nd. The Frenchman could have been pre-ordered from a catalogue as a perfect first opponent: dangerous enough for Murray not to get complacent, but not so much that defeat was ever really a possibility.

Murray started sharply, broke immediately and led 2-0, 30-0 on his opponent’s serve. But Mathieu, who had lost all five of his previous matches against Murray, dug in. He went for it at almost every opportunity and several times had Murray scrambling as a forehand flew past. But invariably Murray would keep retrieving until Mathieu blasted one out of orbit.

The first set was sealed after 44 minutes with a 129mph serve; the second after Mathieu misplaced a forehand. The watching Amélie Mauresmo applauded like everyone else.

Earlier on Wednesday Murray had practised with Mauresmo for the first time. Looking attentive and relaxed, she was happy to watch as Murray warmed up on Court 3 with his close friend and assistant coach, Daniel Vallverdu.

Mauresmo did not appear to chat to Murray, instead passing the occasional message to Vallverdu during the 45-minute session. Afterwards, inevitably, there were plenty of questions about her impact. Murray quite reasonably pointed out that it was hard to judge on the basis of one match.

“I went on court with her the first time today,” he said. “We spoke a little about the matches and tactics, but this week there are not going to be any big changes. But we will definitely be working on a few things after this tournament.”

He did confirm, however, that he had asked Mauresmo to commit to a certain number of weeks coaching him a year if their trial period together, which will last until the end of Wimbledon, works out. “When I chatted to her, I said there was a number I’d like but we haven’t agreed on anything specifically,” said Murray. “But it would be more than Ivan…” That is maybe significant as Lendl coached Murray for about 20 weeks a year, much fewer than most coaches of the top players on tour.

“I hope it works long term because I like her,” he added. “She is a strong character. She knows how to win. She was the best in the World. It’s just whether off the court it clicks and we won’t know just yet.”

Murray’s unbeaten run on grass now stretches to 19 matches, during which he has won the Olympic gold medal and titles at Queen’s and Wimbledon. That teary defeat to Roger Federer on centre court in 2012 feels a long way away. Next he plays the 35-year-old Czech Radek Stepanek, who defeated Bernard Tomic 7-6, 7-6.

Murray has beaten Stepanek in five of their six meetings – including a straight-sets victory as an 18-year-old at Wimbledon in 2005 when the Czech was the No14 seed and Murray, playing in his first grand slam, was ranked 299 places below him – and Stepanek knows he is up against it. “Andy is a great grasscourt player,” he said. “It will definitely be a great challenge for me. The crowd will support their home darling. That’s normal.”

The No1 seed, Stan Wawrinka, is also through to the last 16 after Marcos Baghdatis retired with a shoulder injury at 3-2 in the first set. Ernests Gulbis, who reached the French Open semi-finals last week and is the No6 seed at Queen’s, lost 7-6, 7-5 to the 6ft 8in Frenchman Kenny De Schepper.

Gulbis admitted he had enjoyed a “little celebration”, including cigars and blackjack, after reaching the final four of a grand slam for the first time. “I lost,” he sighed. “I lost a lot.” ‘No alcohol?’ he was asked. “I would love to. But if I have a tiny sip, it’s dangerous.”

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