After 342 Days, Murray Returns & Makes Kyrgios Work For First Queen's Club Win
Positive comeback in familiar surroundings for former World No. 1
Andy Murray didn’t expect too much in his first tour-level match for 342 days. It was more about renewing his love for the sport in a competitive environment, rather than winning at the Fever-Tree Championships on Tuesday. But in front of a capacity crowd, which gave him a standing ovation as he walked out onto Centre Court, he tested one of his good friends, Nick Kyrgios, throughout the first-round clash.
Kyrgios ultimately won 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 in two hours and 39 minutes for his first victory in four appearances at The Queen’s Club, extending his run of form that includes a narrow semi-final exit to Roger Federer at last week’s MercedesCup. But it was the way Murray competed that pleased the purist for his chances in the future to return to peak form.
A relieved Kyrgios, currently at No. 21 in the ATP Rankings, will now prepare to beat seventh-seeded Briton Kyle Edmund on Thursday.
"Kyle's been playing great," said Kyrgios. "I played juniors with him. I always knew he was going to be pretty good. He had a really good forehand.
"I never really get surprised when he does well. He can play on [grass] as well."
Edmund progressed to the second round after beating American Ryan Harrison 7-6(4), 6-4. The 23-year-old went down an early break in the first set, but recovered well, winning 90 per cent of points behind his first serve en route to victory.
"I'm happy [to get my] first win on grass this season, said Edmund. "To come away with a win in my home country... I am very happy."
Since 12 July 2017, when Murray lost to Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, the 31-year-old has tread a lonely path, largely away from the public spotlight in a bid to recover from a right hip injury, which required surgery in January. Only his closest confidants have known how close he is to full fitness, but upon his return to the ATP World Tour 500 tournament on Tuesday evening he struck the ball cleanly and largely appeared to move without too much discomfort.
"I thought I did okay. I certainly could have done some stuff better, at the beginning of the second set I thought my level at times was good; sometimes not so good," said Murray.
Two breaks of Kyrgios’ serve in the first set highlighted Murray’s resilience and later, in the second set tie-break after the pair had exchanged breaks on two occasions, Murray came within three points of victory. Kyrgios put his foot down at 4/4 and completed the set with a forehand into space, which Murray was slow to chase.
"He returns unbelievable," said Kyrgios. "Everything is the same, really. He's just got to get matches under his belt."
It was only in the second game of the decider that five-time champion Murray momentarily moved gingerly, relying on guile and shot placement over power. The threat of being broken loomed in each of Murray’s service games in the third set, with Kyrgios breaking in the final game of the pair's sixth meeting (Murray leads 5-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series) courtesy of a double fault. Murray had saved two match points at 4-5, 30/40 and Ad-Out.
"I'm really happy that I got on the match court today and played," said Murray. "It was a close decision. I have not been practising loads at all... I really haven't played a whole lot of tennis, so I'm happy I got out there and competed and performed respectably."
Kyrgios is now 14-5 on the season, which includes his fourth ATP World Tour title in the first week of 2018 at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp (d. Harrison), where Murray had initially contemplated his return to action.
"I have been waiting obviously to get back and [start] competing again... It was also nice I guess that my first match was back here in the UK and in front of a full crowd, at a tournament I love playing at."
Did You Know?
Murray was making his 13th appearance at The Queen’s Club, since his 2005 debut (l. to Thomas Johansson in the third round). He is now 30-7 lifetime at the historic grass-court tournament, which first began in 1890.