Andy Murray during a practice session at the The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London on Sunday. Photo: Adam Davy/PA via AP

LONDON - Andy Murray revealed after he won Wimbledon in 2013 that the annual build-up to The Championships always used to bring on an outbreak of mouth ulcers.

So it would seem entirely natural that he has been carrying around with him a significant amount of tension this past week, which may have contributed to the soreness he has been feeling in his hips.

When he walks out on to Centre Court on Monday in the defending champion’s traditional starting slot, there will be some nerves, but there may well be a sense of relief, too.

After 50 weeks as Wimbledon champion he can finally set about the business of defending his title and trying to hold off the serious challenge of Rafael Nadal to his world No 1 status.

He will be up and running if he gets through the first week, although if the draw pans out as one might expect, he could face trial by showpony. Three of the tour’s more extrovert players could be ranged against him: Alexander Bublik, Dustin Brown and Fabio Fognini.

Bublik could scarcely contain his excitement about all the attention coming his way when he was paraded before the media on Saturday. The world No 134 sounded like a man prepared to soak the occasion up and enjoy the chance to display his wares.

He enthused about the sleeve of tattoos on his arm, one of which features a quote from his favourite rap artist Eminem: "You won’t break me, you will just make me stronger than I was."

Bublik is a ‘lucky loser’ who was beaten in the final round of qualifying and, speaking of not being broken, the last time Murray faced one of those he not only lost but failed to break serve — for the first time since August 2015.

That was only two weeks ago against Australian Jordan Thompson at Queen’s. In fact, Murray has been defeated twice this year by lucky losers — the other being Croatian Borna Coric in Madrid.

Monday's Kazakh opponent has a large box of tricks into which he likes to delve. He loves playing dropshots and has even been known to switch from right to left-handed in a match.

"Why I am playing at this level is because my game is unpredictable," he said. "I don’t even know what I’m going to do. I decide right before I hit. I don’t have a plan. I hope it’s five sets, not three. I guess I will get some show time."

At Indian Wells in March, Bublik was selected to interview some top players for an ATP publicity stunt and apparently took to his task with relish. He wanted to address Murray as 'Sir Andy’, which is not a formality the world No 1 much cares for.

Murray said on Sunday: "He was asking the players what he thought were funny questions and that was his one to me. We chatted a bit away from the camera. He’s a confident guy, he was good fun in the limited time I spent with him."

You suspect the smiles and showboating will all be from one side of the court today as this is serious for the 30-year-old Scot, whose chances of adding to his three Grand Slam titles are hardly inexhaustible.

All things being equal, and with the anxiety gradually seeping away from his body, you would expect Murray to make the second week yet again. However, the evidence supporting the belief that he will retain his title is flimsy when you look at what happened in the two previous years he won Wimbledon, 2013 and 2016.

In those seasons he came into the tournament with plenty behind him, having amassed a match record of 27-5 the first time and 30-6 the second. Both years he was fresh from winning Queen’s, whereas this time he lost in the first round there and has a record of 21-9 overall.

It may be these figures, rather than a soon-forgotten troubled build-up in the past week, that signpost potential trouble if and when he faces the biggest matches in the last 16 and onwards.

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