Andy Murray’s bid for a fourth Aegon Championship title was put on hold last night as the perennial blight of the grass court season stopped him in his tracks. Just 33 minutes into his semi-final with Viktor Troicki, the heavens opened and all play at the Queen’s Club was abandoned for the day.
Given that the weather forecast was abysmal – rain on and off all afternoon – the organisers did seem to be pushing their luck by persisting with a 1:15pm start time and scheduling Murray as the second match of the day. Even Kevin Anderson, the big South African with the booming serve, was a little surprised that his semi-final with Gilles Simon was the first of the afternoon. He smacked down 34 aces on his way to a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 win, although he did not sound too optimistic about his chances in the final should he have to play the Scot today (he has lost all but one of their five previous matches).
“He gives me the opportunity to play but I definitely have my work cut out”
“Andy’s proved himself time and time again to be one of the best players in the last decade, really,” Anderson said. “The way he moves, the way he returns, especially on the grass, he’s obviously put up some amazing results. I played him a few times, beat him the once, but he has gotten the better of me quite a few times.
“It’s tough, because I feel like he gives me the opportunity to play a little bit, but he just counter‑punches so well. He just gets so many balls back. If it is him, obviously not sure yet, but I definitely have my work cut out for me.”
Whether it is Murray or not could depend on Troicki’s shoulder. The two men had cautiously moved to 3-3 in the first set when Murray earned a break point. Troicki saved it with an ace. Murray then manufactured another break point but, as he did so, the Serb slipped and fell awkwardly on his left arm and, at first, appeared to have dislocated his shoulder. Luckily, after an examination by the trainer and after a few minutes for the shock to subside, Troicki felt ready to continue, but no sooner had he walked back to the baseline than the rain started and everyone headed for the locker room.
The night off at least allowed Troicki to get plenty of treatment, but his final hopes depend on how he feels this morning. If the shoulder has stiffened up overnight, his time on centre court may be brief. Play will resume at 11am with the final scheduled for 2:25pm.
Laura Robson’s spell on court was similarly brief. She was marmalised 6-0, 6-1 by Daria Gavrilova in the first round of qualifying at the Aegon International at Eastbourne – but she did not care. She had played her first full match in 17 months and that was all that really mattered.
Robson had not hit a ball in earnest since losing to Kirsten Flipkens in the first round of the Australian Open in 2014. At the time, she made little of her wrist injury but a few days later, she headed home to London with her left wrist in a brace and a glum look on her face. Since then, she has forced herself to be patient while the medics tried to work out what was wrong with her.
She had surgery to repair an ailing tendon 14 months ago and then began the slow and tedious business of rehab. There were times when she was so miserable that she could not bring herself to watch her colleagues and rivals on TV, not when she could barely lift a racket herself.
But despite setbacks and understandable caution – she has been putting off her comeback for much of this year – by yesterday, she was ready to give it a go. The result did not matter; the fact that she was back and playing was reward enough in itself.
“I think in a way it was a victory to just finish a match and be back on court, back playing tournaments and I’m very happy,” she said. “I’m not expecting to play my best tennis right now. It’s going to take a while; it’s going to take a lot more matches and a lot more practice and I’m very willing to do that. I’m not even at the level I was before I was injured yet, so I’ve got a long way to go before I get there and then improve.”
Gavrilova is the world No 41 and was the top seed in the qualifying draw, so she was always going to be a challenge for the former Britain No.1. The windy conditions did not help matters either and serving four double faults in her opening service game set the tone for the afternoon. But this is just the start for Robson. If she can get one of the four remaining wild cards to Wimbledon, she will try her luck in SW19 before heading back down to the lower rungs of the professional tour to get matches under her belt and start rebuilding her career.
“As soon as I’m finished with the mini grass season that I’m doing, I’m going to go back over to Florida and train,” she said.
“Then I want to play a lot of smaller tournaments and start progressing upwards rather than playing big WTA events like this [in Eastbourne].
“I think I have been patient for the last 18 months and, to be honest, anything coming up will be easy compared to the last year and a half that I’ve had.”