Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury marked themselves out as medal contenders with a brilliant first-round performance in the men’s doubles at the Ariake Tennis Park.
The pair had a tough draw against second seeds and Roland Garros champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut but they brushed the French pair aside in a 6-3 6-2 victory.
Salisbury and Murray had never played a match together before but the former is Britain’s best doubles player while Murray also has plenty of experience in the format.
The partnership sparked straight away despite brutally hot conditions, and Murray said: “I think we have the potential to be a really good team, I think the result today showed that.
“Doubles is always tricky because sometimes the matches can come down to a few points. I think we were well deserved winners today, we created lots of chances, but not every doubles match is like that.
“I think if we keep the same sort of attitude and everything, prepare diligently, I think we’ve got a chance of doing well. But it’s not easy, just because we won that match. We’ve got a tough match next against a German pair (Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz) and we’ll look forward to that one.”
Murray begins his quest for a third straight singles gold medal on Sunday against ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and he is looking and sounding upbeat about his chances in Tokyo.
He said: “I do like the conditions here in terms of how the court plays and everything. Obviously not an easy one against Felix but I’ve played well in the practice sets and the practice matches that I’ve had and obviously today was a good one for the confidence.”
Murray has played with his brother Jamie in previous Games but here the elder Scot has teamed up with Neal Skupski, and they survived a nail-biting encounter against Argentinian duo Andres Molteni and Horacio Zeballos.
Murray and Skupski were a set and 3-0 down and saved a match point in the deciding tie-break – a new format for this Games – to triumph 6-7 (3) 6-4 13-11.
Murray was originally left out of the team but was a late replacement after Dan Evans tested positive for coronavirus and he has reunited with Skupski, who he split from at the end of last season.
“I haven’t been having the best of years, lost a lot of matches,” said Murray. “I think for me today to hold my nerve and get through a match like that where it was difficult conditions against really good players, it will hopefully give me confidence going forward, and great to have another match.”
The pair next take on Japanese duo Ben McLachlan and Kei Nishikori, and Skupski added: “Towards the end of the second set we were playing very good tennis so, if we start playing like that, we’ll be tough to beat.”
There was disappointment, though, for Heather Watson, who was beaten 7-6 (5) 6-3 by Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam.
Johanna Konta’s positive test for coronavirus left Watson as Britain’s only female tennis representative and she must now wait until Tuesday to find out if she and Salisbury will make the cut for mixed doubles.
An emotional Watson said afterwards: “It definitely wasn’t my best tennis but I gave my best with what I had today. It wasn’t enough. Just too many unforced errors. My game would come and go in waves. Just really disappointed with the outcome.”
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