By Jake Davies
- Andy Murray [WC] defeats Stan Wawrinka [WC] 6-1 6-3
- Andy Murray [WC] vs Kyle Edmund 
- Jay Clarke [LL] defeats Ryan Harrison 6-4 6-1
EASTBOURNE, UNITED KINGDOM – In just his second match back, Andy Murray claimed a big win over Stan Wawrinka in the opening round of the Nature Valley International.
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Andy Murray [WC] defeats Stan Wawrinka [WC] 6-1 6-3
This was the first time the two were locking horns since the semi-final of Roland Garros last year, but lots has changed since that moment as both players make their journey back to the top of the game after their respective long-term injuries.
Andy Murray certainly started off the brighter of the two in the opening stages. His backhand side, particularly in defence, was something that frustrated Stan Wawrinka a lot and that wing never really broke down at all in the first set. Murray managed to get the first break and then did not let up in terms of his level on serve as he comfortably won the set, dropping just the one game.
The second set felt like a bit more of a patchy and inconsistent set from the returning Brit. It was the stability and reliability of his backhand return that enabled him to get in a winning position in the 2nd set, but when the finishing line came in sight and the reality sunk in that he could win his first match in eleven months, Murray started to feel quite nervy. Getting out of a huge game at 4-3 in the 2nd set was key to him getting it done in straight sets as an erratic Wawrinka hit himself out of the match to lose it in straight sets.
In terms of Murray’s movement, this was a much better showing than his previous match in Queen’s. The key to Murray’s success has been down to his ability to frustrate players from the back of the court with his efficient movement and he looked very good in defence for a lot of this match. Murray also forced so many errors out of a hit-and-miss Wawrinka, who struggled to find his game and often was pushed into making untimely errors because of the pressure Murray applies with his footwork from the baseline.
Andy Murray [WC] vs Kyle Edmund  H2H: Murray leads 2-0
Murray now moves onto a second round clash with the No.2 seed Kyle Edmund. The two Brits have played some tough, close encounters in the past, but in all two of their previous matches, Murray has managed to get the win. Most importantly, one of those victories came on the grass of Queen’s in 2016, but Edmund will fancy his chances of getting his first win over Murray when you take into account that Murray really is short of matches.
Edmund has the consistency behind serve and the explosiveness with his forehand side, but it will be interesting to see how he controls that single shot if Murray has one of those days where he plays very well in defence and makes Edmund go for that little bit extra and play closer to the lines. I think Edmund will win, solely because he has been one of the form players on tour, particularly on the clay and I feel this match has come a bit too soon for Murray.
Prediction: Edmund in three sets
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Jay Clarke [LL] defeats Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-1
The British lucky loser Jay Clarke got his first ever win over a Top-100 player as he defeated America’s Ryan Harrison in straight-sets 6-4, 6-1. This was just Clarke’s third match overall against someone ranked inside the World’s Top 100. Last week, Clarke lost in straight-sets to Wimbledon semi-finalist Sam Querrey, but the Brit made sure he took the next opportunity when it came to him.
Clarke has been doing a lot of winning inside the last two years. In 2017, Clarke won a total of 45 matches in the whole of the season, with most of those wins coming at Futures level, but it goes to show that winning is winning and the Brit has taken so much confidence from winning at the lower levels and will look to transfer that to wins at the highest level. This is the first ATP main draw win for the Brit in his career and you have to feel that it is the first of many.
Jay Clarke [LL] vs Cameron Norrie [WC] H2H: First meeting
In the second round we will get one of two all-British matches as Jay Clarke looks for his second win at ATP level, when he goes up against Cameron Norrie. Like Clarke, Norrie picked up his first win at tour level this time last year in Eastbourne and seems to lift his game to greater heights when he is at this particular event.
Norrie spoke about the prospect of playing Clarke for the first time and how big the match really is for both players:
“I mean, he’s a great player, up-and-coming player. He’s playing well. He plays well on the grass. I think it’s going to be a great matchup. I’m playing doubles with him at Wimbledon. It’s going to be an interesting one, but I think I’m ready for it and I’m going to take a lot of confidence from the win today. It’s going to be a big match. Lots of pressure, for sure. I think I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it and just stick to my game. I think these courts really do suit me.”
It is a huge moment for both players as they face off for a rare ATP quarter-final showing, but Norrie’s experience of toughing and grinding out big matches, particularly in the 2018 season, is why I think Norrie will get the win and advance to his second quarter-final.
Clarke will face the winner of the first round match between Cameron Norrie and Daniel Brands.
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