Andy Murray's farewell tour reaches UK with gripping Queen's win amid souped-up Proclaimers and umpire chat

As Scot plays final matches on grass, he starts off swing with triumph over Popyrin

Farewell tours are always emotional affairs and the UK leg of Andy Murray's is of particular interest as we get one last glimpse of the Scot on the lush grass of British tennis courts.

At 37-years-old, we are almost certainly witnessing Murray's last dance. Retirement just isn't in the post, it has landed on the letterbox. Murray hopes the Paris Olympics at the end of July will be his swansong but it could well be Wimbledon. Regardless, one of Scotland's greatest sportspersons is playing his final tune.

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That's why tuning in on Tuesday evening to watch his first-round match against Alexei Popyrin at Queen's was essential. In theory, this could be the penultimate match of Murray's career on grass, a surface that has served him so, so well in his richly successful career. He's won Wimbledon twice, the Olympics once and Queen's a mighty five times. He has given us so many great moments on these shores.

Andy Murray celebrates during his match against Alexei Popyrin at Queen's Club.Andy Murray celebrates during his match against Alexei Popyrin at Queen's Club.
Andy Murray celebrates during his match against Alexei Popyrin at Queen's Club. | PA

There was also the significance that this first-round match was his 1000th on the ATP Tour. That is a remarkable achievement for a man whose career has been blighted by injury, the most severe being a hip problem that required the mother of all resurfacing operations. Even back in the spring, in Miami, he tore ligaments in his ankle but here he is, going for it one last time.

Now ranked 129 in the world, it is a reflection of where Murray's game is. He is still pretty competitive against men many years his junior but wins are so hard to come by. Just last week, he was ousted by Marcos Giron in Stuttgart. Popyrin, the world No 48, would be a stern foe here. The Australian is a big, athletic boy who hits the ball hard.

So it was refreshing to see Murray on the front foot in the early stages of this match. Popyrin looked nervous, the 24-year-old no doubt aware of the opponent across the net and his history. The Aussie double-faulted at 4-3 down and Murray took the first set. A souped-up version of The Proclaimers' 500 Miles blared out at the changeover, very un-Queen's like. Even Hibs got a namecheck from the BBC commentary team as Murray's football team. Popyrin, apparently, is an Everton fan.

Murray will take on Jordan Thompson in the next round.Murray will take on Jordan Thompson in the next round.
Murray will take on Jordan Thompson in the next round. | Getty Images for LTA

The Toffee refused to be stuck under Murray's spell. Perhaps a little settled, he broke at the start of the second set to race into a 3-0 lead. Murray could not reply, and as Popyrin took it 6-3, Murray was grimacing in pair, appearing to tweak something as he hit a serve.

The writing looked on the wall now. But Murray does not want this to end just now. He dug in, as he has does so often. "Are you happy with that decision?" Murray queried of umpire Mohamed Lahyani after he deemed the Australian worthy of a point after a Hawkeye overrule. It was a moot point, Murray breaking in the second game of the final set and kicking on to see it out 6-3 3-6 6-3. Another Australian in Jordan Thompson is up yet, a man who beat him at Queen's back in 2017.

Best dial in for that one over the next few days. You won't get too many more chances to watch a genius at work on the grass. For now, the band keeps touring.

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