FERNANDO Verdasco is at peace with his part in Andy Murray ending Britain’s 77-year wait for a men’s singles Wimbledon champion in 2013 – but would still relish a “special” rematch on London soil at Queen’s.
The 31-year-old Madrid native fought off three match points to prevail over Roberto Bautista Agut at the Aegon Championships yesterday, booking a likely second-round clash with the Scot.
Two-time Grand Slam winner Murray will meet Taiwan qualifier Yen-hsun Lu in Tuesday’s first-round action at Queen’s, the top seed clear favourite to overwhelm the 31-year-old who grew up on a chicken farm.
Murray edged a five-set thriller with Verdasco in the 2013 quarter-finals, en route to that elusive Wimbledon crown. The Spaniard admitted to mixed memories of that defeat, but still hopes for another meeting.
“It’s hard enough to play against Andy Murray anywhere, whether in France or Spain, let alone England,” said Verdasco. “He’s one the best players in the world, he’s the top seed here, and he’s playing at home.
“Grass is a great surface for him, but it would be special for me to play him again in England, after that quarter-final at Wimbledon.
“I played a great match that day, and a great tournament, great tennis overall. I was feeling great, my level was very high and I had several chances. Of course I didn’t take them in the end, but it was a very close match.
“It’s sad memories in some ways because it’s a quarter-final at Wimbledon and I was so close to making the semi-finals, and you remember how close you came.
“But at the same time I know I tried my best, fought with everything and was part of a great match. Of course Andy went on and everyone knows what he did next.
“This match is completely different of course, and you always try to look to the present and the future, and not get stuck in the past.
“But it would be great to meet Andy again. He still needs to win his first-round match, of course.”
Murray lost out to Lu at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the Dunblane-born star is without doubt a far more potent force these days, especially after his best-ever clay court season that included a run to the last four at Roland Garros.
The 28-year-old has declared himself in fine fettle ahead of Queen’s, and, after just one day and without gracing the courts, is already the last Briton in the draw.
James Ward, Britain’s Davis Cup hero when defeating John Isner in the April victory over the United States, was unable to progress beyond third seed Milos Raonic.
Ward stormed to the first set but was unable to sustain that pace, last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Raonic easing through 5-7 6-3 6-2.
The 24-year-old Canadian will now face Richard Gasquet in the second round after the Frenchman despatched Simone Bolelli 6-1 6-2.
Rafael Nadal will break his four-year Queen’s Club absence today because his “knees are fine”, the first three months of his season were “terrible” and UK tax rules for overseas sports stars have eased.
Nadal conceded he was “not surprised” he failed to win the French Open, an otherwise home-away-from-home for the clay court king.
The 29-year-old insisted “I don’t know and I don’t care much now” if he wins a major title this season or not.
Nadal won his first grass court title for five years at Stuttgart last week however, and might just be well-placed to reach a Wimbledon quarter-final for the first time since finishing as runner-up in 2011.
“My knees are fine. It’s obvious that if my knees are fine I have chances to compete well, and grass is the second surface where I had more success in my career,” said Nadal, who faces Alex Dolgopolov today. “I feel comfortable but I have to play well. Today I don’t have physical limitation like I had in 2012 and 2013, so that’s important.
“I didn’t play well enough before [the French Open]. The first three and a half months of the season have been terrible for me, very bad, playing very badly almost every week.
“In the last month and a half I feel that I am playing better.
“Most importantly I am enjoying being on court again.
“The second half of the season started for me last week [with victory in Stuttgart].”
Novak Djokovic deposed Nadal in the French Open quarter-finals this year, prompting a quick-fire switch to grass preparations for the Mallorca native.
Nadal was already practising at Stuttgart by the time Stan Wawrinka shocked the tennis fraternity by edging out Djokovic to the Roland Garros crown.
Lleyton Hewitt bowed out of his final Queen’s Club appearance with a first-round defeat by Kevin Anderson in the Aegon Championships.
The 34-year-old Australian – holding the joint record as a four-time Queen’s champion – slipped out after entering the draw on a wildcard, losing 6-7 (5/7) 7-5 6-2 to Anderson, who will face the winner of today’s keenly-anticipated first-round clash between Nick Kyrgios and French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.