The time has come. Today, three weeks shy of a year since his last competitive match, Andy Murray will step on to the centre court at the Fever-Tree Championships to face Nick Kyrgios. Today he will begin his comeback in earnest.
He certainly looked spry enough as he practised at Queen’s Club yesterday, a decent workout in the sunshine with no obvious sign of pain or hindrance in his movement. The hip seems to be holding up well. Now Murray will find out if that is enough to give the tall, powerful, talented yet infuriatingly unpredictable Kyrgios a run for his money.
“I’m not expecting to win against Kyrgios,” Murray told Amazon Prime Video. “I don’t think it would be right to think that way after such a long time out, but obviously I want to be competitive. I don’t want to just go out there, roll over and play badly. I want to try and play well and feel good on the court, but my expectations are pretty low.
“I don’t know if this week if I will be playing well or if it will be in three or four weeks’ time. Maybe in three or four months when I’ve had more matches under my belt and I’ve had training time.”
Kyrgios, meanwhile, is taking nothing for granted. He had a quick squint at the Scot on the practice court and did not notice any major difference between the Murray of this week and the Murray who, in his pomp, beat him five times on the bounce for the loss of just one set. Fortunately, Kyrgios regards his opponent as one his better friends on the tour so he does not take the one-sided head-to-head personally. But having never won a match at Queen’s Club in three previous attempts, he was not being too optimistic about the result.
“I don’t really know [what to expect from Murray],” Kyrgios said. “What I always expect from him. Obviously I know he’s going to make a lot of balls. He loves playing on grass. I obviously know how he plays. I watched a little of him today in practice. He looked fine. That’s it.
“I’m going to go out there and play like I always play. I want to serve big and play big and try and win. I’m going to go out there and do the same thing. If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose.
“It’s just good to see him back ultimately. I think it’s been pretty shitty without him. I’m looking forward to going out there and playing. But to see him healthy is the main thing. He’s awesome for the sport.”
The world No 21 comes into this week with the confidence of reaching the semi-finals in Stuttgart at the weekend. Once there, he was within a touching distance of beating Roger Federer until the old master played the big points that bit better and the chance was gone. Kyrgios, though, admits that that ruthless streak, the one that Federer keeps hidden behind his statesman-like façade, is probably missing in him.
“I don’t know if it’s business only and ruthless, I don’t know if I ever have that mentality,” he said. “It’s going to be a good match [against Murray]. Even against Roger I just had a lot of fun when I was out there. There were early points in the match where we were both laughing and enjoying ourselves.
“Obviously I’m going to go out there and I want to win. Don’t get me wrong. But I’m not going to not have fun or not enjoy myself at the same time.”
Cameron Norrie was not having much fun against Stan Wawrinka yesterday. In a swift 56 minutes, he was brushed aside by the Swiss 6-2, 6-3 and was less than impressed with his performance. From his form-defying efforts on the clay a couple of weeks ago (he had never played on the red dirt until February of this year), Norrie was taught a swift lesson about life on grass.
“Today I didn’t serve that great,” Norrie said. “I think I served like 40 per cent or something, so it was really low for me. It was pretty surprising. I have been serving so well in days leading up. That was basically what let me down today.
“I think he served really well today. I donated him my serve a couple of times – two, three games – and that was it basically. But he managed his serve very well and it was tough for me to get into the rallies.”
With that, Norrie headed back to his digs to prepare for a week of practice before the Eastbourne tournament next week while the rest of Queen’s Club went back to counting off the hours until Murray’s grand entrance on centre court.