Just a week ago, the Scot was the talk of the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club as he and Feliciano Lopez beat the top seeds, Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal, in the opening round. It was Murray’s first match back since hip surgery and here he was, beating the Colombians, the best doubles team in the world this year.
But yesterday, partnered by Marcelo Melo (the world No 4), Murray lost to the Colombians 6-2, 6-4 in the first round of the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne. In all there were four breaks of serve in the match – and three of those were on the Murray serve.
“It’s obviously not the perfect situation to be in,” Murray said, “but I think playing a match within 40 hours of finishing [a tournament], you know, is quite a quick turnaround. Conditions here very different conditions to Queen’s court. It’s really slow out there.
“They returned extremely well, I think, both of them off both of our serves. Made it tough for both of us. Yeah, it’s tricky, but quick, quick turnaround.
“Obviously you always want to play really well, but so long as I’m fit and healthy and I can stay on the practice court and stay on the match court, I’ll improve all the time. That’s how it normally works. Hopefully that will be the case.”
Murray will have yet another partner for Wimbledon next week which means another period of adjustment. That was not made any easier by Pierre-Hugues Herbert winning his singles in Eastbourne yesterday – he beat Denis Kudla 5-7, 7-6, 6-4 – which leaves even less time for Murray and the Frenchman to practice and talk tactics before business begins in earnest in SW19.
“His priority is going to be singles, as well, and I understand that,” Murray said. “We spoke about that when he decided to play, as well, and he wasn’t planning on playing doubles [at that point].
“So we probably won’t get to practice too much together, so I think I’m going to play on the other side of the court, on the deuce court with him. So that’s another change and something that I’ll have to practice a bit this week if that’s going to be the case.”
Even though he is still relishing the very fact of being back on a tennis court, win or lose, Murray is still not happy about losing.
The only upside to yesterday’s result is that he can now get back to London and start work again on Wimbledon’s practice courts.
“It’s more I get to go and get used to the conditions and stuff at Wimbledon and the courts again,” he said. “They are different. I know they’re grass, but they are different each week. The doubles starts on Wednesday or Thursday there. I’ll probably get a good week’s kind of practising beforehand, and I’ll be able to do some physical work, as well, and work on the bits of my game that I need to get better.”
After the excitement of his return to Queen’s Club and his win there, Murray was talking enthusiastically about playing not only doubles but mixed doubles at Wimbledon.
Now, though, he is having second thoughts. Wimbledon is the only one of the four grand slams that still play the best of five-set format for the men’s doubles and that combined with mixed doubles commitments might be pushing his luck so soon into his comeback. Added to which, he still has not finalised a mixed doubles partner. “I’ll try to decide on that probably by tomorrow, I would think,” he said. “Then also just decide if I’m definitely 100 per cent going to play, as well.
“I have spoken to a couple of the guys who don’t play mixed doubles all the time, and they were just saying, you know, you get a couple of bad days of rain, you end up having to play best-of-five doubles followed by a mixed doubles, and that can happen, like, a couple of days in a row.
“I need to be certain that I’m ready to do that. I think I should be okay. Ideally the weather will be good and you don’t have to worry too much about that, but we’ll see.”
In the meantime, Murray is planning to have a couple of days off. From a standing start, he has played five matches in six days which is quite a workload for a man who will celebrate the five-month anniversary of his hip resurfacing surgery on Friday.