Andy Murray: Queen’s is a cool place to come back
Andy Murray is preparing to make his return to action at the historic Queen’s Club next week
It has been a while, and no doubt. It has been almost exactly a year, in fact, since Andy Murray lost in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, and precisely a year since he made his uncharacteristically early exit from the tournament he has won more than any other man.
Five times, Murray has won at the historic Queen’s Club, but last year, he arrived already limping with the hip problem that had dogged him through the clay season. He lost in the first round.
He planned several times to hit the competition courts again, and aborted them all, his only match an exhibition event with Roger Federer in Glasgow for his charities. He was still limping heavily, and finally went under the knife in the aftermath of another aborted comeback at the Australian Open.
Alarm bells rang when even his grass season looked under threat as he pulled out of s-Hertogenbosch last week. Then he would not decide on Queen’s until putting himself through some final tests on this Club’s perfect turf. In the event, he put off the decision until the morning of the draw, and did not break cover for the media until the end of a Saturday.
But then, he was quick to allay concerns over his readiness.
“Well it’s been 11 months since I last competed. So obviously, I’m looking forward to it. There are a lot of doubts though as well, when you’ve not played for a long time. Coming back from injury, you’re always kind of second guessing yourself. You never know exactly when you’re going to be ready, but I’m looking forward to getting back out there and competing, and hopefully playing well.”
He went on to talk about the special place that this tournament has for the man who has a 30-6 record on its lawns.
“It’s obviously exciting. I have always enjoyed playing here. Last year was kind of the start of a tough year for me. I physically didn’t feel good coming in and that was tough for me. But I’ve got lots of great memories from here, from winning the tournament and playing here the first time when I was 18. I’m sure I’ll have the same nerves and stuff as I did all those years ago. Having missed 11 months, coming back, I’m expecting to be very nervous when I go back out there. But it’s a cool place to come back.”
When it comes to grass, only Federer among active players has won more tournaments: As well as five Queen’s titles, Murray has twice won Wimbledon, and he also won the 2012 London Olympics on grass.
But the unseeded Murray, currently ranked 157, had the misfortune to draw another unseeded man making his return from repeated injury problems, Nick Kyrgios, with the Australian already showing his return to form by pushing Federer to the limit in the Stuttgart semis this weekend.
Murray was only too aware of the threat.
“He obviously plays extremely well on grass. He’s played Federer today in Stuttgart. He’s always a tough guy to play against. He’s got a brilliant serve and he’s very, very talented. He’s unpredictable as well.
“The positive is that there probably won’t be loads of long points. Points can be quite sharp with him, which is good, but a very tricky match with the way that he plays and how comfortable he is on the grass.”
So how was Murray actually feeling ahead of this first tough test?
“I’ve been practising the last couple of weeks and building up each day. I started playing sets about a week ago. So I played probably seven or eight sets, and I wanted to feel how I was the following day after playing a couple with Cam Norrie yesterday.
“I got tested by my physios this morning to make sure I hadn’t stiffened up and lost any range of motion in my hip, which can happen when you’re tired and the hip’s a bit angry. That wasn’t the case. That was all positive, and I pulled up pretty well from that, so I decided to go for it.”
Certainly to make any impression at Wimbledon, Murray needed some grass tennis in his legs, and if he comes through even two or three rounds, it should be a good sign, given the quality of the competition.
The No2 seed and former champion Grigor Dimitrov believes it is precisely the right place to make his return:
It’s obviously a tough match [against Kyrgios] for a first match in a long time. I’m happy for a player to come back from injury. Injury is pretty much our biggest enemy… And to see someone coming back, especially Andy, is great, not only for the tournament but for the British fans. And for himself to play at home in front of a home crowd, in front of his family, I think that would boost him up. Even if he’s not 100 percent ready, that’s going to help him stay positive and look to the future.”
Kyrgios is just the start, of course. Murray could face the current No1 Briton, No18 ranked Kyle Edmund, in the second round, and the quarter-final could throw in No4 seed David Goffin, defending champion Feliciano Lopez, or the returning Milos Raonic, who returned to grass competition with a bang this week to reach the final in Stuttgart.
No-one said it would be easy, but if Murray can make his return to form anywhere, it is surely here.