Seemingly cruising back to the locker room in just two hours with a straight-sets victory against Nikoloz Basilashvili to his name, he imploded under the occasion to lose seven straight games and that set.
And yet in the theatre where he has produced the most remarkable performances of his career, he promised at least a second act as he turned around his sudden capitulation.
“It’s amazing to be back out here playing on Centre Court. It’s such a brilliant atmosphere – I did well to win the fourth set in the end,” he said afterwards. “I keep getting asked is this going to be my last Wimbledon? No, I’m going to keep playing. I’m enjoying it and I can still play at the highest level.”
Had it not been for the match being halted for 15 minutes to allow the roof to be closed, Murray might well have struggled to steady the ship. And yet he survived for another day with a 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-3 victory against the No24 seed.
The agonies of his last appearance on Centre Court against another No24 seed in Sam Querrey back in 2017 have been well versed, Murray hobbling on one hip out of that match and the tournament, and eventually onto the surgeon’s table.
On Monday night, there were echoes of the Murray of old as he unleashed a myriad of shots to frustrate his opponent, screamed at himself for not playing like the world No1 of old and delighted a crowd relishing his return after four years.
It was a contest that felt like it could go either way at the outset against an accomplished player and with Murray coming into it with just two singles matches under his belt in three months.
But on his favourite court – the scene of his two Wimbledon titles and an Olympic gold – he early on gave an indication of what might be if his body can hold together in this twilight period of his career.
For much of the night, his serving was potent. Tellingly, he did not drop a service game until deep into that third set and with three aces in his opening service game alone. But it still showed an element of rustiness with a first-serve percentage under 60 per cent.
A tight first set went comfortably on serve until two break and set points on the Basilashvili serve, which Murray converted to bring the crowd to their feet for the first time just 40 minutes into the match.
With the Centre Court roof open at that stage and the sun replacing the earlier day-one showers, Murray looked a little more tentative early in the second set watched by wife Kim and mother Judy, among others.
His Georgian rival had the chance to break in the second set, which he failed to convert. When Murray’s own chance came, he took it at the second opportunity, bringing spectators out of their seats again with cries of, “Let’s go Andy, let’s go”.
With that, Basilashvili seemed to lose his fight as Murray raced to a 5-0 lead before his own capitulation, his serve escaping him and his groundstrokes too as his opponent somehow took the set to the bafflement of the crowd.
When they returned following the subsequent roof closure, Murray broke to love but was immediately broken back in a seesaw finale. He broke once more and from there played the percentages well to seal the most popular win from the opening day.
The question is quite how the body and mind recovers from the match and what might be for the remainder of Wimbledon.