If Andy Murray is to challenge for a third Wimbledon title then he admits his partnership with Pierre-Hugues Herbert will need to improve from their first outing together yesterday.
Murray will team up with the Frenchman in the men’s doubles as he makes his return to grand slam tennis five months after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery.
Murray and Herbert took on fifth seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in a practice session, and the Scot said: “It didn’t go amazingly well. I don’t think we played brilliantly.
“But it was tricky conditions and we were playing against guys who have been playing together for four or five years so they know each other’s games. But I like him a lot, he’s a nice guy, so I’m sure we’ll have fun. I just hope we play a little bit better when the tournament starts.” Murray is feeling his way back into professional tennis by playing solely in doubles, and made the perfect return by lifting the title at Queen’s Club with Faliciano Lopez before a first-round loss alongside Marcelo Melo at Eastbourne earlier this week.
The draw pitted Murray and Herbert against the unseeded pair of Romania’s Marius Copil and Frenchman Ugo Humbert, but the real headline was a potential third-round meeting with Murray’s brother Jamie, pictured, and his new British partner Neal Skupski.
The brothers could have played together given Jamie’s split from long-time partner Bruno Soares after the French Open but the uncertain status of Andy’s fitness meant they decided against it.
“As it’s got closer I was more thinking it would have been nice to have been playing with him,” said Andy. “It feels a bit odd that we’re both in the doubles draw but we’re not playing together.
“But it would also be cool to play against each other and to have that memory. Although it would be difficult I’m sure, it would be nice if we both got there.”
Murray revealed he has now received several offers from potential mixed doubles partners but remains undecided whether to commit to a second competition. Should the weather delay proceedings, doubles matches are the first to be postponed, meaning players can find themselves with a heavy schedule.
Murray sparked a glut of interest on social media after saying he had been turned down by several women including world No 1 Ashleigh Barty and is keen to keep his options private this time.
“Last time it was a bit of circus for a few days but they’re all good players, a few doubles players, a couple of singles players,” he said.
“I want to play, I think, more than my team want me to play. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. I think the weather’s supposed to be pretty good so that swings it a bit but it’s just a difficult one.”
One thing that has been inescapable since Murray returned to the court at Queen’s Club has been the smile plastered on the 32-year-old’s face.
The contrast could not be greater from the press conference he gave on the eve of the Australian Open in January when he tearfully admitted he was considering the end of his career because of the debilitating pain he had suffered for 18 months.
Being free of pain has transformed Murray’s life away from the court and he describes the last few months as the happiest he can remember.
Learning that he does not need professional tennis to be happy left him half wishing his surgeon was less positive about his chances of returning to the sport.
“I’ve seen what my future will look like if I’m not playing and I’m fine with that,” said the former world No 1, who has entered into a partnership with American Express.
“I’m certain that if I stop playing tennis tomorrow that I’d be absolutely fine and enjoy my life, whereas last year I didn’t know what that looked like. And that’s something all athletes probably struggle with. Since I was 15, when I moved over to Spain, that’s 16, 17 years of your life, your whole adult life has been playing tennis.
“So when the injury with my hip came, I was ranked No 1 in the world, I’d put no thought into what I was doing post-career really because I didn’t think it was particularly urgent. But things changed extremely quickly.”
Murray’s overall ambition is to get back to playing singles, possibly even as soon as the US Open, but will his contentment have doused the competitive fire that has been at the core of his success? Murray thinks not.
“I don’t know if that’s something you lose or if it’s something that comes and goes,” he said. “I guess everyone’s a bit different. But when I was at Queen’s I was very motivated on the court and trying to compete as best as I could and I enjoyed it.
“I enjoyed Eastbourne as well, even though it didn’t go well. Once you get on the court you want to have that competitive streak but it’s the perspective you have as well.”
l To mark the start of his new partnership with American Express, Andy Murray will be “virtually” hosting “Champion’s Rally”, an immersive VR challenge at the American Express Fan Experience on-site at Wimbledon.