Andy Murray yesterday insisted he is “most likely” to play at Wimbledon, where he is due to meet Frenchman Benoit Paire in the first round on Tuesday.
There has been no official word from the former world No 1’s camp but he spent all day practising at the All England Club yesterday, after which he was due to discuss the situation with his team.
He did speak briefly to one reporter about the chances of him taking part in the tournament, saying: “I think most likely, yeah.
“I’ll chat to my team this afternoon and also see a bit how the next couple of days go. But most likely, yeah, I will be playing.”
After the two-time Wimbledon winner was knocked out by Sam Querrey in last year’s quarter-finals when he was clearly struggling with injury, he has spent almost a year recovering.
He had surgery on his hip and achieved his target of returning for the grasscourt season, losing to Nick Kyrgios in the first round at Queen’s before beating Stan Wawrinka in the first round at Eastbourne earlier this week. He then lost to his replacement as British No 1, Kyle Edmund in the next round.
He will be hoping the next couple of days of practice go well, because the draw has been anything but kind to Murray.
But, with a current ranking of 156th in the world, he knew he would be thrown in at the deep end.
First opponent Paire, the world No 48 almost beat Roger Federer in Halle a couple of weeks ago. He is also the last man that Murray beat in a grand slam event – at Wimbledon, in straight sets, in the fourth round last year.
Back then, Paire was ranked No 46 and Murray was the world No 1, but his hip was really starting to trouble him and, after his five-set defeat by Querrey, he hobbled away to spend the next 11 months on sick leave.
This time around, Paire is still a top-50 player but the Scot is just starting out on a long, long road back to the top.
Murray’s progress in the two weeks since he played at Queen’s Club has been good but every time he steps on court, the crowd watches nervously. Will he be all right? Is he ready to come back yet? Is he walking with a limp? Can his hip cope with this level of competition yet? Murray, though, seems to be working through the doubts at a gallop.
“There is no risk for me playing tennis just now,” he said after his loss to Edmund.
“That’s not really the point. It’s just whether I feel like I’m able to do myself justice. Two weeks ago I practiced with Kyle and I didn’t win a game. That was the first set or points that I played in, well, in six months basically, since I was basically playing to try and get ready for the Aussie Open.
“I have made decent improvements the last couple of weeks and obviously have been somewhat competitive in the matches that I have played. But I don’t just want to go out there to just play. I want to be able to compete properly. But there’s no danger about me injuring my hip more than there would be at any other stage. Obviously I could slip and fall and hurt myself, but that’s got nothing to do with my decision whether I play the tournament or not.”
Should Murray deal with the challenge of Paire – as he has done in both their previous meetings – he would probably meet Denis Shapovalov, pictured, the 19-year-old left-hander from Canada who has explosive power and the exuberance of youth. His view on the good and the great of the game is simple: “They are all human,” he said. “Anyone can lose on a given day.”
And after that Murray could face Juan Martin Del Potro, the former US Open champion. The gentle giant from Argentina – he stands 6ft 6ins but seems even larger – is something of an inspiration for Murray. His win in New York was almost nine years ago and he has sent most of the intervening years trying to overcome injuries to both wrists.
Now back up to No 4 in the world rankings, although he is seeded No 5 for Wimbledon, his patience, determination and stubborn refusal to give in has been the ultimate example to every player returning from injury. A semi-finalist in SW19 in 2013, he reached the semi-finals of the French Open three weeks ago. It was Rafael Nadal who beat Del Potro that day in Paris, and Nadal also lurks in Murray’s section of the Wimbledon draw.
The road ahead, then, is blocked with massive obstacles but if in the next couple of days Murray’s hip behaves itself and he feels ready to play then the biggest hurdle of all will have been overcome.