RELIEVED Andy Murray admits he battled back from a nerve-jangling career-first experience to make a winning return at Wimbledon for the first time in four years.
Taking to the SW19 courts for the first time since losing in the 2017 quarter-finals, the two-time champion rolled back the years he toppled Nikoloz Basilashvili in four sets.
Murray was given a major scare by the Georgian in the third as he battled back from 5-0 down to reduce the deficit – but the Scot held on to seal a 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-3 victory and book his spot in the second round.
Basilashvili, ranked 90 places above the former world No.1, stunned Murray with the finish line looming but the Dunblane man re-found his composure to haul himself over the line.
And Murray, 34, said: “I’ve not been exposed to three-four hours of tennis in a long time, so of course you have some doubts at that point.
“Not when I was 5-0 up, but when the set started to get close, at 5-4 you start thinking about it.
“I think I played well, at least up until around 5-3 in the third set. That has never happened to me before in my career – being three breaks and two sets to love up, and then losing the third.
“But when you haven’t played any matches, it is the sort of thing that can happen. Things can get away from you quickly.
“I should have finished sooner than what I did, but I don’t think there are too many players who would have won that fourth set.
“I didn’t deal well with the pressure at the end of the third set, but saying that it is not easy to come back out in the fourth set at that point.
“Having to come back out and try and win, having lost seven games in a row, on centre court – I think a lot of players would have capitulated there, and I did the opposite of that.”
Murray is one of 45 British players competing at the Championship and one of 15 in the main men’s and women’s singles draws – the most since 2006.
And he got off to a flyer against his higher-ranked opponent as he raced into a 2-0 lead by taking the opening pair of sets 6-4 6-3.
The three-time Grand Slam champion then opened up a 5-0 advantage in the third but Basilashvili, the world No.28, miraculously rallied to peg the Scot back.
But Murray, crowned king of SW19 in 2013 and 2016, showed all his experience to regather his fluency and propel himself into the last 64.
The atmosphere was electric under the Wimbledon lights and Murray added: “It was a great atmosphere and it didn’t feel like the crowd was half full.
“I was exposed to competition from a very young age, with my brother and just playing sports and with a winning and losing to element everything I was doing.
“I think I have had a lot of exposure to it and so these tight competitive games feel natural now. I wasn’t born with it though – it was the way I was brought up.”
Keep up to date with all the latest from tennis in Britain by following @the_LTA on Twitter, @LTA on Instagram, LTA – Tennis for Britain on Facebook and @lta on TikTok.