In keeping with tradition, Murray had the honor of playing the opening match on Centre Court as the defending men’s champion — and he looked right at home in beating the 105th-ranked Belgian 6-1, 6-4, 7-5.
Murray broke Goffin four times, saved the only two break points against him and sealed the contest with an ace, his eighth of the match. It was Murray’s 450th tour-level match win.
Last year, Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years. Now he’s bidding to become the first to retain the title since Fred Perry in 1936.
Murray received a huge ovation when he strode onto the court where he beat Novak Djokovic in last year’s final, soaking in the applause and giving a wave to the crowd — including those fans who queued up for tickets overnight for the rare chance to see a reigning British champion.
“It was nice,” Murray said. “I was nervous this morning, nervous yesterday. Walking through brings back a lot of good memories. I got a nice round of applause and once you sit down in a chair it’s time to get ready for this year and move on from last year.”
Among those in the Royal Box for the occasion were Murray’s father and grandparents and retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, dressed in suit and tie.
Murray’s new coach, former women’s champion Amelie Mauresmo, sat in the front row of the guest box but showed little emotion throughout the match.
Murray was on top of his game from the outset, sailing through the first set in 29 minutes, and closing out the second with an ace. Goffin, who stands 5-foot-11 with a slight build, was overpowered for the first two sets but raised his level in the third and pushed Murray hard.
At 5-5 in the third set, Goffin was ahead 40-0 on serve but wound up being broken. Murray served out the match in the next game, with his final serve kicking up chalk down the middle.
Goffin finished with more winners (31) than Murray (28). But Murray had only 10 unforced errors to 28 for Goffin.
“It was a very high standard of match, he was maybe a little nervous at the beginning,” Murray said. “But in the second and third sets I thought the standard was very high. We played some great rallies, he came up with some unbelievable passing shots. I was glad to finish it in three.”
The top-seeded Djokovic was due up later on Centre Court to face Andrey Golubev.
Among other winners on a cloudy opening day was sixth-seeded and 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych, who beat Victor Hanescu 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. No. 12 Ernests Gulbis and No. 17 Mikhail Youzhny also advanced.
But 18th-seeded Fernando Verdasco fell to Australia’s Marinko Matosevic, losing 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
In women’s play, former top-ranked Victoria Azarenka won her first match in five months, defeating 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-3, 7-5. The eighth-seeded Azarenka, a two-time semifinalist at the All England Club, made her return at Eastbourne last week following the long layoff with a left foot injury, losing in the first round.
Former U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur and 18th-seeded American Sloane Stephens were among the first-round losers.
Stosur, the 17th-seeded Australian, slumped to a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer.
The loss extended the 2011 U.S. Open winner’s poor run at Wimbledon, where she has never advanced past the third round and has lost in the first round six times in 12 appearances.
Stephens, meanwhile, had her streak of reaching the second week at six consecutive Grand Slam tournaments ended with a 6-2, 7-6 (6) loss to 109th-ranked Maria Kirilenko of Russia.