Andy Murray may now be a lowly-ranked No 157 in the world, merely the third best in Britain’s pecking order, but all eyes will be upon him at Queen’s Club this week. That much has not changed.
The Fever-Tree Championships is stuffed tight with grand slam champions and finalists: the top seed, Marin Cilic, is a former US Open champion and last year’s Wimbledon finalist, while the No 2 seed, Grigor Dimitrov, is last year’s ATP World Tour Finals champion.
In between there is Stan Wawrinka, the former US, Australian and French Open champion, Novak Djokovic, he of the 12 grand slam titles, the US Open finalist Kevin Anderson and Milos Raonic, the former Wimbledon finalist.
But tomorrow afternoon, the attention will focus on Murray. His first match back after 342 days on sick leave waiting for his ailing hip to heal will be the only show in town. The comeback may be short-lived given that he is playing Nick Kyrgios, a man who is both talented and unpredictable in equal measure, but if Murray can come through the encounter unscathed, no one will care two hoots about the result. And if the crowd will sit nervously in their seats as Murray gets under way, it will be nothing compared to the nerves the former champion will be feeling.
“I’ve obviously got lots of great memories from here, from winning the tournament and playing here the first time when I was 18,” Murray said. “I’m sure I’ll have the same nerves and stuff as I did all those years ago. Having missed 11 months, I’m expecting to be very nervous when I go back out there.
“When you’ve not played for such a long time, naturally you’re going to have doubts, and you don’t know exactly how you’ll feel until you start competing and playing matches again. Whether I started this week or three weeks ago or in five weeks’ time, those doubts would still be the same.”
All of that, though, is for tomorrow.
The job of opening Scotland’s account in south-west London falls to Cameron Norrie, below who finds himself in a very unusual position. This is his first full season on the professional tour and yet, as he prepares for today’s match with Wawrinka, he finds himself as the form-book favourite to defeat the serial grand slam champion.
The Swiss’s ranking has plunged to No 263 [he used to be a regular fixture in the world’s top five] and, as he tried to recover from knee surgery, has been limited to playing only 11 matches this year. Of those, he has won only four.
Norrie, on the other hand, has been barging his way up the rankings since he made the decision last summer to leave university and join the tennis travelling circus. Now up to No 79, he is learning fast and finding his bearings on the big stages. After three years of American college tennis he is not fazed by partisan crowds or feisty opponents. He may, though, find being the crowd favourite today a little unusual.
Should Norrie win, he will face Kyle Edmund, now ranked No 18 in the world, in the second round, providing Edmund gets the better of Ryan Harrison in his opening match.