And so the work begins. Here, today – weather permitting – Andy Murray will open his account at the Aegon Championships against Nicolas Mahut and he will do it under the silent and slightly ominous gaze of Ivan Lendl.
His week at Queen’s Club is important – he is aiming to become the first man to win five titles at the old club – but it is what lies down the road that really matters. Murray has two more chances to usurp Novak Djokovic this year, to try to stop the seemingly unstoppable Serb at the grand slam championships. In just under two weeks, Wimbledon begins and from there, via the Olympics, he will head to the US Open.
Murray’s two grand slam titles came in SW19 and Flushing Meadows and at both, he beat Djokovic in the final. Just for good measure, he also beat his old rival on his way to Olympic gold in London four years ago. And throughout that run of success, he had Lendl to guide him. No wonder he was “pumped” to have his mentor back at his side.
Enduring two grand slam final losses to Djokovic this year has hurt but after the best clay court season of his career, Murray is not downcast. He has been edging closer to the world No 1 in the past couple of months and now with Lendl on board to offer that extra few percentage points that may just give him an extra edge, he is relishing his return to the grass courts of south west London.
“The last few matches I’ve played against Novak, they’re not all negative,” Murray said. “There have been a lot of positives there and I think I’m getting closer, which is good and I think there’s a few things Ivan can help me with there as well.
“This part of the season [the grass court swing] is normally a strong part of the year for me. I do like the conditions here. I’ve played well at Queen’s and Wimbledon throughout the years and I think with the base that I have after the last few months and the confidence I’ve gained from the way that I played on the clay, I’m in a good place going into Wimbledon. I’m very happy with my team and now adding Ivan.”
While Lendl has been away attending to family matters, two hip replacements and the US Tennis Association’s development programme, Murray has moved on as a player. Since his back surgery at the end of 2013, he is stronger and able to hit shots that were physically beyond him as he was winning Wimbledon.
In the past, the clay courts were his undoing – he knew how to play on them but his back could not take the strain. Now, though, after the work done by his physios, led by Mark Bender, and the fitness work he does with Matt Little, he has come through two months on the clay unscathed and is ready to conquer the grass. So, just because Lendl has returned to the team, there will be no shake up in personnel.
“I really like the people I’m working with just now on a personal level obviously but professionally as well,” he said. “I think my body is in a really good place just now, after what, for me, was a really tough clay court season. I’d never played that many matches and in difficult conditions a lot of the time as well: cold, wet, rain, damp, windy conditions. My back and my body held up really, really well. Very positive about that. My physios have done a great job, Matt Little as well. I do think it’s a very, very strong team and I’m happy.”
Coming back from the French Open tired and with a cold, Murray only started practising on the grass on Saturday. The rain has not helped his schedule but he did find a gap in the drizzle to hit a few balls with David Beckham’s son, Romeo, on Sunday, before knuckling down to some hard graft later in the afternoon.
“I’ve been sick for a few days,” Murray said. “But I feel much better now. Just a bit run down because it has been a long few weeks, lot of tough matches. That’s why I took five days off without doing anything, a break, spent a bit of time away from the court and the gym to rest up and let myself have a bit of a break. It’s a long summer and it’s just getting started, still a lot of events to play and I just needed a little break.”
Lendl is due in town this morning; Mahut lies in wait this afternoon.
There is no time to waste and Murray cannot wait to get started.