From Doubt To Excitement: Murray Returns To Wimbledon
For 11 months, Andy Murray was forced out of competition due to a hip injury. The former World No. 1’s ATP Ranking slipped as low as No. 157 — his lowest standing in nearly 13 years — and the Scot admitted to having ‘zero expectations’ when he returned at The Queen’s Club two weeks ago. The future was uncertain.
But the two-time Wimbledon champion put forth two solid efforts at the Fever-Tree Championships and the Nature Valley International, and the right-hander says he is prepared to play at The Championships.
“I'm pumped,” Murray said. “Four or five weeks ago, I didn't know whether I'd be capable of competing at a level I'd be happy with. I think the past couple of weeks have been beneficial… I don't think I played amazing in the matches, but I think I've done well, considering the opponents, the level of the guys that I've played against.”
In his first match back at The Queen’s Club, the Scot pushed in-form Aussie Nick Kyrgios to a final-set tie-break before succumbing. And at Devonshire Park in Eastbourne, the 31-year-old beat former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka before losing to British No. 1 Kyle Edmund.
Now, Murray is back at the tournament that helped mold him into a national icon. He has advanced to at least the quarter-finals at the tournament in each of the past 10 years. But the lead-up to this event? Not the same.
“Wimbledon for me is obviously special for a lot of reasons. I always want to be here competing. It feels a little bit odd coming into the tournament this year,” Murray said. “Normally like at this stage I feel really nervous, lots of pressure, and I expect a lot of myself around this time of year. I've always loved that and enjoyed that in a way. It has been difficult, but enjoyed it, whereas this year it feels very, very different.”
Murray is competing in just his third tournament since last year’s Wimbledon, for starters. And with that comes a gradual increase in both health and form. It’s not easy to face world-class competition after nearly a year away from the sport.
“There're certain things that are still tricky and things I'm still trying to work through. These things are significantly better than what they were a few months ago. That's for sure. But again, it just takes time,” Murray said. “You sometimes in practice might feel really good, and then you get on the match court and you're pushing yourself a few percent harder… you learn a lot from competing.”
Murray will hope to both learn and win in the first round, facing a tough test against Benoit Paire, who had two match points against top seed Roger Federer at the Gerry Weber Open last week. Murray has won both of their FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, including a triumph over the Frenchman in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2017, but knows that it won’t be easy against the World No. 48.
“Last year he obviously had a decent run here, had a couple of match points against Roger in Halle a couple of weeks ago. I think with his game, as well, the ability that he has, his athleticism, I don't see a reason for why he shouldn't play pretty well on the surface,” Murray said. “He's a tricky guy to play against because of his style. He does hit a lot of dropshots, he serve-volleys. He's unorthodox with his shot selection.”
And Murray is looking forward to the challenge. The 11 months he had to sit out were some of his most difficult. But while his form remains on the mend, one thing is as strong as ever: Murray’s love of the sport.
“If I had to stop tomorrow, yeah, I'd be pretty gutted with that because I still love playing, I love the sport. I enjoy watching it. I enjoy the traveling. There's nothing about it that I'd be looking forward to giving up,” Murray said. “I want to keep playing as long as I can, providing I'm physically capable of doing that.”