After 74 minutes, two sets and a match win, what have we learned about Andy Murray and his new metal hip?
To the relief and joy of all who stayed to watch his evening encounter, they saw that Murray can walk on and off the court unaided, that he can nip about that same court without a limp and that he is still clearly one of the most gifted tennis players of his generation.
Murray and Feliciano Lopez opened their account at the Fever-Tree Championships by beating the top seeds, Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia, 7-6, 6-3. But that is not what the patient and faithful crowd were worried about.
Murray and Lopez could have been playing the Krankies in a car park round the back of Sainsbury’s and the Scot’s followers would have packed the place. They just wanted to see their man fit and well and able to play again. He was and he can.
True enough, the physical stresses and strains of doubles are far, far removed from the singles game. No matter: what Murray had to show was that for a man who had major surgery less than five months ago, he is well on the road to a full recovery. It was hard to judge his movement – he only had half the court to cover – but he flung himself around more and more as the match progressed. And what he still had up his sleeve was the ability to create stunning winners out of thin air.
What was also blindingly obvious was that for all the talk prior to the match about being more laid back, being less driven, wishing to enjoy the moment more, Murray was as competitive as ever from the moment he and Lopez stepped on court. Lopez may have played more doubles matches in his career than Murray, but it was the former world No 1 who was in charge, doing the talking and directing play. And it was Murray who punched the air on every winner and howled with every error.
We know now that when he is within reach of the ball, he is still one of the very best. He still has power, he still has touch and by gum, can he volley. Now we just need to wait and see whether that metal hip will allow him to run at full pelt across every inch of the court and hit those blinding winners in a singles match. That is still a work in progress.
But for the moment, Murray is on his way back – pain-free, limp-free and moving, unaided, in the right direction.