‘It has been tough but I made it’ - Andy Murray ready for US Open return

Fit-again Scot thrilled to be back in New York and trying to win a Slam

Andy Murray returns to the US Open on Tuesday, when he faces Yoshihito Nishioka, the world No.48 from Japan, in the first round. Picture: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Andy Murray has waited a long time for this moment: on Tuesday, he will face Yoshihito Nishioka, the world No.48 from Japan. That in itself is not exactly front page news. But it the fact that he will doing it in the first round of the US Open that makes his pulse race a little – 19 months since his last appearance in a major tournament, the Scot is back.

That he won a tournament in Antwerp last autumn, eight months after having major surgery to resurface his right hip with metal, was a huge surprise – to him as much as anybody. But it is the grand slams that have been the ultimate goal: to play with best at the biggest events and to be able to compete again. That was what the months of rehab and effort have been for.

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“It’s been a long kind of journey to kind of get back to this point,” he said. “Hopefully actually you’re going to compete at a slam in a few days’ time where I’m not worried, I don’t know, about how I’m going to be, how my hip’s going to feel, things like that.

“The last time that would have been was in the 2017 French Open. It’s a long time ago. I know I’ve played a couple of slams since then, but that wasn’t really me on the court. Whereas now, yeah, I’m not as quick probably as I was before, but I’m able to go out there and compete and focus on the tennis, hopefully be able to last a five-set match without my performance seriously deteriorating as it goes on.

“Yeah, it’s been tough to get to this point, a lot of hard work, lots of ups and downs. But I made it back. It would be nice to go out there and get a win on Tuesday.”

He came through three matches in three days at the Western and Southern Open last week and, despite taking five hours to get through the first two rounds, he felt no ill effects. And, gradually, he is getting used to life in the bio-bubble created by the US Tennis Association to keep the US Open Covid-free. The lack of spectators is still distracting but once the adrenaline starts coursing through his veins and the competition begins, he is learning simply to focus on the match.

“It will be tricky,” he said. “I play my first match on Arthur Ashe. I played some of the best atmospheres that I’ve ever played in tennis has been on that court. To go out there on such a huge stadium and have literally no one in the stands is going to be weird. I know that’s going to be the case, so at least I can prepare for it mentally.”

But the US Open is never just about the tennis. The off-court dramas match anything on the show courts and this year it is Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil’s idea to create a new player association that is the talk of Flushing Meadows. They want the players to have a stronger and louder voice and so they want to break away from the ATP and stand together for player power. They were planning to have a vote last night to decide on the move. Murray does not sound impressed.

“I won’t be signing it today,” he said. “I’m not totally against a player union, player association, but right now there’s a couple of things:

“One is I feel like the current management that are in place should be given some time to implement their vision.

“Also, the fact that the women aren’t part of it; I feel like that would send a much more powerful message personally if the WTA were on board with it, as well. That’s not currently the case.”

Ever the statesman, it is good to have him back.

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