When you have been a professional for a dozen years, you are 29 years old and you are the veteran of 41 grand slam campaigns, there is not a lot you have not seen or done in tennis. But for Andy Murray, the Aegon Championships are turning up new experiences every day.
It is a decade since Murray last played a fellow Brit in earnest – one Timothy Henry Henman, who won their final meeting in 2006 after losing the three that led up to it – but yesterday he faced Aljaz Bedene and today he must take on Kyle Edmund. Queen’s club is knee-deep in British players and that is something of a first.
Every year, the tournament offers wild cards to the local hopefuls but they seldom last more than a round. Now Murray and Edmund will contest the first all-British quarter-final at Queen’s Club since the Open era began in 1968.
Murray dispatched Bedene with relative ease 6-3, 6-4, taking a little time to adjust to the Britain No 2’s baseline game and then suffering the ignominy of dropping his serve in the second set – he was already a break to the good at the time and broke again three games later – and he headed straight back to the practice courts once he was done. Court time has been at a premium this week due to the recurring rain delays and the Scot wanted to get as much time on the grass as he could while the weather held.
“I thought it was okay,” he said. “It was a lot of longer rallies than the first match, so yeah, it was quite different. The first round, because of the way [Nicolas] Mahut plays, you’re sort of being a bit reactive on the court. You’re kind of adapting to what he’s doing. Today you have to be a little bit more proactive I think against someone playing predominantly from the back of the court.”
Bedene will be 26 in a few weeks’ time and is established in his career; today’s opponent, Edmund, is a different proposition entirely. Edmund is just 21 and a relative newcomer to the world’s top 100. He is, he hopes, on his way up – he is ranked No 85 this week – and Murray, his Davis Cup team-mate, is someone he has always looked up to. He will want to impress and he will have nothing to lose. But, then again, he might be racked with nerves. It is a feeling Murray knows only too well.
Back in 2005, in his first season as a pro, Murray played Henman for the first time. It was in Basel, a tournament Henman had won twice before, and Murray, a spindly 18-year-old with a world ranking of No 70, beat him in three sets.
“It felt very strange in comparison to when I played other guys,” Murray said, “because Tim was someone that I looked up to when I was growing up and I always watched. I used to follow his matches really closely. So then, you know, when you’re standing like in a competition on the opposite side of the net to them, it’s a little bit surreal.
“I was up I think 6-2, 5-3, and then coming to serve for the match I felt nervous. It was a big moment for me at that time. Thankfully, I ended up winning the match, but it definitely feels different and felt different to any of the other players I played against at that stage.”
Edmund has trained with Murray at the Scot’s Miami base and he has stood beside him as Britain won the Davis Cup. But he has never beaten him in any contest of note – a few practise points here and there but nothing worth bragging about.
“He’s No 2 in the world for a reason,” Edmund said. “It’s because he’s a very good player, and I have a lot of respect for him. It will be a very tough match.
“I will go in there and, first of all, play my game. When I get on court, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing if you play your game to give yourself the best chance to win.”
Alas, when it came to identifying which game exactly Edmund might use to beat Murray, the Yorkshireman replied: “Maybe in golf I might get him.” Come teatime, normal service may well have been resumed with Murray as the last Brit standing.