Murray On Singles Comeback: 'You're At The Mercy Of The Draws'
All eyes will be on Andy Murray as he begins his singles comeback at the Western & Southern Open, but the two-time champion is keeping expectations low as he tests how his right hip will withstand the rigours of one-on-one competition.
The Brit starts off against Frenchman Richard Gasquet and a win would lock in a second-round clash with fourth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem. For Murray, the success of this week won’t be decided on wins and losses, but on tangibles like movement, recovery time and remaining pain-free.
“The performances against top singles players in practises have been good. I’m aware that matches are different, but at some stage you have to take the step to try and play,” said Murray. “The quickest way to get up to speed is by being on the practice and match court with top players.
“I’m not expecting to move as well I used to, but I think I can move better than I am now. That will take some time since I only started playing singles a couple of weeks ago. When you’re playing at the highest level against the best players, they hit the ball big and that takes some time to get used to.”
There will likely be some pre-and post-match singles conversations this week with Bob Bryan, who he shares a bond with as one of a handful of players on Tour to compete with a metal hip. Bob successfully returned to action in January after undergoing his own right hip surgery last August. Murray grilled him like a veteran journalist before deciding to have the operation, gaining first-hand insight into how Bob navigated uncharted territory by trying to return after such a procedure.
“I guess you could say he was my inspiration for coming back,” said Murray. “I spoke to him about three times a week before I had my operation, but was in communication with him all the time after he had his just to see how he was getting on. I probably would have had the operation regardless, but I’m not sure I would have tried to play if I hadn’t seen what he had done and heard everything he told me about. He’s been brilliant.”
Murray will be unseeded for now and the doubles draws he has dealt with during his comeback indicate the tough roads he could face in singles. His first-round matches have included the top seeds twice (Cabal/Farah), the second seeds (Kubot/Melo) at the Coupe Rogers and reigning Wimbledon finalists (Mahut/Roger-Vasselin) at the Citi Open. This week, he and Feliciano Lopez take on the fourth seeds (Rojer/Tecau) in their opening match.
But compared to the start of the year, when going for a walk or playing with his kids was a difficult task, challenging draws are a minor inconvenience. Murray has not only accepted, but embraced that his early matches could be blockbuster showdowns.
“You realise getting back to singles is a hard thing to do because you’re at the mercy of the draws a lot of the time, but I would have absolutely signed for being in this position six months ago,” said Murray. “I’ll just deal with it as it comes, but hopefully it makes for some exciting early rounds.”