Britain’s No 4 and the world’s No 54 will play Andy Murray today in the first round at Queen’s Club and for all the Scot’s trials and travails this year, for all that he has not played a match on grass in 11 months, Murray is – in Bedene’s eyes – the overwhelming favourite to win not just this afternoon but in the Wimbledon final on 16 July.
“I don’t think there is a good day to play Andy,” Bedene said. “He’s always going to be dangerous. “I’d say Andy [is the favourite for Wimbledon]. You know, obviously Queen’s is the second biggest tournament on grass, and it’s a good preparation for Wimbledon. So that’s why so many great players pick it. Andy loves it. And, yeah, I think he’s the favourite.”
What? Favourite over even Roger Federer in SW19? “Yeah, yeah,” Bedene said quietly but forcefully.
Bedene had initially intended to play in the Halle tournament this week working on the theory that the draw does feature Federer but the depth of the field is not as strong as Queen’s. But, as he waited to see whether his ranking would get him into the main draw in Germany, a last-minute change of heart brought him back to London. Then as luck – or ill-fortune, depending on your point of view – would have it, he was drawn against the world No 1 in the opening round. He played Murray last year, too, and while he did manage to break the Scot’s serve, it was not enough to prevent the inevitable: he lost in straight sets.
“I think probably his best surface is grass,” Bedene said of his opponent. “I don’t think he lost last year – he lost one match the year before, so, I mean, it’s a good record. I think he’s going to be strong here and at Wimbledon.
“He has great movement, great returns, fighting, putting every ball back. I mean, he’s just awkward to play. He’s giving his best on every surface, but, you know, if you give every return back, if you give everything on grass, that’s great. I’ll try to play my game. Just be offensive. Try to do as little mistakes as possible.
“But, you know, it’s different because he’s really moving well on grass. This is his home tournament.”
Quite where Bedene’s home is remains a moot point. Born in Slovenia, he took British citizenship in 2015 with the hope of playing Davis Cup for his adopted country. The International Tennis Federation had other ideas, though, and because he had represented Slovenia in a couple of Davis Cup dead rubbers in the past, he was not allowed to represent any other country.
He tried to appeal that decision but the arbitration hearing found in favour of the ITF. Then, after 18 months of wrangling, Bedene announced last month that he might consider playing under the Slovenia flag again.
As of now, he is too busy to have talks or meetings with the likes of Stephen Farrow, the tournament director at Queen’s Club and the LTA’s legal director, but he will review his options as the grass court season progresses.
He is desperate to play in the Olympics in 2020 and if he cannot play for Britain, he will have to go back to Slovenia.
“Obviously I have to focus on the tournament first and then I will speak to him [Farrow],” Bedene said. “We’ll have to speak either after Wimbledon or after Queen’s.”
Life really does not seem to be treating Bedene well at the moment. He is not allowed to play for his adopted country, his decision to come to Queen’s backfired when the draw landed him with an appointment with Murray and not even he is giving himself a snowball on centre court’s chance today (the temperature was in the 30s yesterday).
“I played Andy last year here,” he said, trying to look on the bright side. “I was enjoying it. I’ll try to do that this year again. But I would prefer to play him in the final.”
If Bedene is any judge of form, he knows he will have to wait another year for that ambition to be fulfilled – he is backing Murray for the win today.