10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com


Britain’s Andy Murray of Britain in action against Nick Kyrgios of Australia during their first round match at the Fever Tree Championships at Queen’s Club in London, Britain, 19 June 2018. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL



LONDON—Swirling questions surrounded Andy Murray as he launched his Queen’s Club comeback.


Nick Kyrgios posed one more.


“Do you remember how to do this Andy?” Kyrgios joked to the former world No. 1 during the coin toss moments before his first match in 11 months.


Showing familiar fire, Murray fought off a pair of match points in the 10th game of the decider, but coughed up a double fault on the third match point bringing an anti-climactic conclusion to a riveting return.


Kyrgios hammered 18 aces, nearly hit double digits in tweener attempts and played entertaining and exasperating tennis spoiling Murray’s comeback, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5, to reach the Fever-Tree Championships second round.


It was a day of firsts for Kyrgios, who beat Murray for the first time in six meetings while posting his first victory in four Queen’s Club appearances.


Kyrgios conceded it felt awkward playing a friend in his return.


“It was strange because on big points, when I won them, I almost felt bad if I showed any emotion. Like I didn’t really want to get into his grill at all,” Kyrgios said. “But other guys, if I’m up 30, like 30-All or have a match point, I’m probably going to be a bit psyched up.”


Thrashed in the first set, Kyrgios put conflicting emotion aside.


“But the whole time, it was kind of good to see him back out there, but it was a very awkward match for me because I was thinking the guy hadn’t played a match in a year, and I was getting smoked in the first set,” Kyrgios said. “I was, like, this is not going to be a good look if I lose this match. Obviously there was a lot of thoughts going out there. I’m happy I pulled it through, but ultimately just seeing him back out there. I mean, we played for like two-and-a-half hours, so if tomorrow he pulls up good, then it’s probably a success for him.”


Competing for the first time since undergoing hip surgery on January 9th, Murray exuded energy, moved with vigor, smacked returns and broke one of the game’s biggest servers four times.


But it wasn’t enough to warrant a win in his first Tour-level match since bowing to Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarterfinals 342 days ago.


Rust was most evident when Murray was under pressure on serve.


“I just thought maybe he got a bit nervous at times,” Kyrgios said. “In big moments he played well, but every time I have played him in the past he’s played unbelievable. On the big points he’s played really well.


“Today I thought he might have been a little bit nervous. He would have never doubled on match point when I played him years ago. But that was his first match back. He returns unbelievable. Everything is the same, really. Just he’s got to get matches under his belt.”


Moments before the two-time Wimbledon winner departed the court to an appreciative ovation a pair of former Wimbledon finalists—Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic—both withdrew. Raonic pulled out with a right shoulder injury, while Berdych withdrew due to a back issue.


Clanking ice cubes in pitchers of Pimm’s fans carried in the stands, familiar shouts of “Come on Andy!” and even the Murray habit of whacking the back of his calf with his Head racquet after an unruly error were all welcome signs of the return of British grass-court summer.


Though Kyrgios often cites Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as his tennis hero, the 23-year-old Aussie performed at times like he’d spent a semester studying at the Mansour Bahrami school of showmanship.


In the second game, Kyrgios did a complete 360 spin before thumping a bounce smash and in the third game he hit two tweeners during one rally.


At the outset, Kyrgios was routinely rocking the radar gun with blasts in excess of 130 mph on first serve and often went big and bold on second serves, too. But the Brisbane champion gagged with successive double faults donating the break and a 4-2 lead.


Crossing the line from casual to disinterested, Kyrgios dumped another double fault—one of 11 on the day—as Murray scored his second straight break snatching a one-set lead after 41 minutes of play.


It looked like old times as the entire Murray team, including mom Judy and wife Kim—stood and applauded.


Three straight breaks started the second set. Murray moved forward eliciting a passing error as he broke back for 4-all in the second set then dug out of a love-30 hole to hold in the ninth game.


Sliding a forehand down the line, Kyrgios forced a second-set tie break after 89 minutes.


Seemingly determined to turn the tweener into a rally shot, Kyrgios opened the break with—what else?—a tweener followed by a bounce smash to earn the mini break.


The explosiveness to stretch a lead is a Kyrgios strength and he showed it slashing successive aces for 3-0. Murray kissed the sideline with his 11th ace to level the breaker at four.


Then Kyrgios cranked it up.


A flat forehand down the line and whipping wide serve earned the Aussie two set points. Kyrgios needed only one drilling a diagonal forehand winner to level after 97 minutes, but looked to be limping as he trudged to his court-side seat.


“Every point it’s getting worse. I’m not happy with this,” Kyrgios said toward his box, including his doubles partner, Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt, during the ensuing changeover.


“Two-all in the first set, I split-stepped and my hip kind of pinched a little bit and I was dealing with a little bit of pain for the whole match as ridiculous as that sounds because the guy was out from a hip injury,” Kyrgios said.


Replicating match pressure is impossible in practice, but Murray was up to the test escaping break points in the early stages of the final set.


The five-time champion dodged a pair of break points holding in the second game of the decider. Staring down his eighth break point of the match, Murray answered with a soft drop shot and volley winner, eventually forging a 3-all tie.


Coming off the Stuttgart semifinals where he pushed eventual-champion Roger Federer to a third-set tie break, Kyrgios was more battle-tested than Murray and that helped him close after the 31-year-old Scot’s strong stand.


Murray saved a pair of match points holding in the 10th game then gained a break point in the 11th. Kyrgios cracked an ace to snuff it out then swatted his 18th ace for 6-5.


A jittery Murray netted a drop shot and dragged a forehand wide for a third match point. Murray’s eighth double fault brought an unfortunate end to what was, at times, a rousing match.


While there were uneven periods, Murray competed with feisty resolve staying in step with one of the sport’s most dangerous servers. Murray paused to sign some autographs before departing in what was hopefully a prelude to his Wimbledon return next month.


The 21st-ranked Aussie has played Wimbledon champions back-to-back in his last two matches. Kyrgios will face either another Briton, Kyle Edmund, or American Ryan Harrison next, but first he’ll partner Hewitt in doubles.


“For me, if I’m feeling good physically and if, you know, if I believe in myself, there is no reason why I can’t go into Wimbledon as one of the serious threats,” Kyrgios said. “I played well against Roger last week. Up 3-1 in the breaker serving. I wouldn’t say we played unbelievable today. I played okay. I feel like I’m in good form on the grass. My timing, my hands and stuff is all good. I have just got to keep staying healthy, hopefully, and I’ll be fine.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *