Andy Murray back at Queen’s to continue a journey of love

The sun is shining, the courts are lush. It is the first day of the newly rebranded Cinch Championships at London’s Queen’s Club. And it is the first sighting of Andy Murray in months. A sense of order has been restored to this uncertain world.

Andy Murray does stretching exercises as he practises ahead of today’s first-round match against France’s Benoit Paire
Andy Murray does stretching exercises as he practises ahead of today’s first-round match against France’s Benoit Paire

Murray is back on his most successful hunting ground. He has won a record five singles titles on the Queen’s Club grass and, most famously, one doubles title – in 2019 with Feliciano Lopez a mere five months after having hip resurfacing surgery. But as he prepares to take on Benoit Paire tomorrow – the mercurial Frenchman ranked No 46 in the world – the Scot is not sure what to expect.

“I feel OK,” he said. “I don't feel perfect but I have been practicing well over the last month or so, pretty consistently. The question mark is obviously whether the body holds up and I can't say with any great certainty right now whether that's going to happen or not.”

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After the year he has had, he can be forgiven for his caution. Catching Covid in January stopped him from going to the Australian Open; the arrival of his fourth child stopped him going to Dubai in March and while he went to Miami at the end of that month, he woke up with a sore left hip and groin a couple of days before his opening match. He has not played a competitive singles match since. Not that he considers retirement an option.

“The reason why I'm still playing is because I love playing tennis,” he said. “I spoke to a number of my ex-coaches who were players and played at high level. I asked them about when they finished playing or what it was like at the end of their careers.

“Unanimously they were all, like, look, it was extremely difficult to stop playing, and our advice would be to play as long as you can, so long as you are still enjoying it and providing your body can still do it.”

Murray watched Novak Djokovic, his old rival, win the French Open on Sunday. They are a week apart in age but while the Scot, now ranked No.124, is nursing his battered body through the latter stages of his career, Djokovic is still the best player in the world and is fast moving into position as the best player the sport has ever seen.

“There is a bit of me that's jealous watching that,” he mused. “I would love to be playing in those matches. I'm not going to try and hide that. But if my goal is to get to No. 1 in the world or to win majors, if that's the only reason why I would continue playing tennis – which it isn't – I would have stopped three, four years ago.

“You can still do things on the court outside of winning slams or competing with those guys which you can enjoy. What I'm trying to do as well has not happened before, so that's my own part of my career and my journey that I like as well.”

His main goal is to be fit and healthy because, as he explained: “I know I can still play high-level tennis. I'm convinced of that. But if the body is not right, I'm not able to do that.”

If the body can hold up, the Murray spirit is as strong as ever.