Andy Murray’s T-shirt was certainly sounding positive: “Forecast Reign” read the legend emblazoned across his chest, a suitably upbeat prediction for the current king of Wimbledon.
It was certainly more befitting than the alternative provided by his clothing manufacturer: “Bangers and Smash”. But, as the world No 1 prepared for today’s encounter with Dustin Brown, the entertaining, if alarmingly unpredictable, German who looks forward to the grass-court season the way a kid looks forward to Christmas, he had other matters on his mind.
Murray’s opening match on Monday was not too taxing, it was a promising start to his campaign and it was the first test of how well his troublesome hip is recovering. Now, though, Murray knows that he will have to do a lot more running if he is to suppress the effervescent Brown. The German loves to serve and volley, he is a dab hand at the drop shot and he absolutely loves to crack his forehand into the furthest reaches of the court.
The two have played only once before but that was in 2010 on a hard court at the US Open and Murray won in straight sets. They have, however, got to know each other through the ill-fated and never to be seen again IPTL, an exhibition circuit that started in 2014 and ran for three years. As they played on the same team, Murray had the chance to get to know a different side to today’s opponent.
“We spent a bit of time together and had a bit of a group chat with all of the players on the team,” Murray said. “We all were basically writing to each other after that because everybody got on well. From time to time we message each other. It could be anything – not just tennis.
“You might think that because of the way he plays on court, maybe he is the same away from it. Bublik [who Murray played on Monday], for example, you would guess what he was like away from the court because of the way he plays the game.
“Dustin comes out with incredible shots and is very entertaining to watch and is pretty ‘out there’ on the court. But, away from the court, he is a very quiet, respectful and humble guy. He is very different to how he plays the game. We get on well and he is a nice guy.”
The good news is that Murray has had no reason to resort to painkillers since he returned to the practice courts at the end of last week. A brief break at the start of the week allowed the injury to settle and now, while the joint is not in perfect condition, it is not giving anyone reason to worry.
“It is just something I have had to monitor my whole career,” Murray said.
“It has been really sore for a couple of weeks now and I needed to take a few days off.
“I was practising a lot on grass and preparing and getting ready for Queen’s and my hip was getting gradually worse. Then I said, ‘I need to stop this now because this is actually affecting the way I am playing and affecting my practices’.
“I knew if I had to go on court like that I could not serve and hobble around and get through matches.
“I needed to get ready to play and that meant taking a break.
“It is something I have been dealing with since I was 22 or 23 years old, off and on. It is sore, but I get through it. It is not like a horrific injury in my knee. It’s just that in time it is something I need to look after.”
So far, he has been looking after it well and if he can move today the way he did on Monday against Bublik, he can start thinking of a longer term plan to nurse it through the fortnight.