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Sir Andy Murray Wins Doubles Match At The Queen’s Club With Feliciano Lopez At Fever-Tree

Britain’s Andy Murray (L) and Feliciano Lopez of Spain (R) in action against Colombia’s Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal in their round 16 mens doubles match at the Fever Tree Championship at Queen’s Club in London, Britain, 20 June 2019. The tournament runs from 17th June till 23 June 2019. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER



By Alix Ramsay


When Andy Murray decided to try his hand at a bit doubles as he recovered from hip surgery, he thought it would give him an idea of where he had got to in his recovery and rehab programme.


When Andy Murray played his first doubles match at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club on Thursday evening, the rest of us got an idea of just how little had changed in the five months he has been away from the courts.


Oh, sure, his hip seems to be in good nick. He walks without a limp, he says he feels no pain at all and everything is doing just fine. He played a whole tennis match on Thursday – that can’t be bad.


But in the weeks since the announcement of his return to action, he had given several interviews in which he claimed to be playing for the pure enjoyment of being able to play again. And he did enjoy playing again, particularly as he and Feli Lopez knocked out the top seeds, Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal, of Colombia, 7-6, 6-3. But that was only the half of it.


After a wee while to get used to his footing – the grass is still pretty slick after all the rain over the past few days – he was loving the business of hitting winners to a band playing. In the first set, he was a little more tentative but still volleying like a good ‘un when the chance presented itself. And then, in the second set, he was laying into a few forehands and celebrating with gusto when they sliced the Colombian pair in two.


He pumped his fist, he cheered with delight and, when things did not go so well, he howled in frustration when he missed the mark with what had been set up as a clean winner. This was the Muzz of old. So much for the laid back, happy-go-lucky bloke of the interviews: Muzz wanted to win and he had an inkling that he could still remember how do it.

Britain's Andy Murray reacts as he plays alongside Feliciano Lopez of Spain against Colombia's Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal in their round 16 mens doubles match at the Fever Tree Championship at Queen's Club in London, Britain, 20 June 2019. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER

It was one year ago that he tried to make his comeback from his first hip operation. He faced Nick Kyrgios in singles, again at Queen’s Club, and he put up a decent fight but he knew he was fighting a losing battle. His hip still hurt, despite the surgery, and he was not enjoying life much at all.


This time, it was so, so different.


“This felt different to last year,” he said, “because last year when I came in and played, my hip felt very average. I was still pretty uncomfortable and I had done a lot of training. Things weren’t really getting better. Whereas now I feel like although I’m not at my best physically, I feel like I’m always making improvements and I have no pain.


“So it felt different in that respect. I feel like I’m going to continue to progress. It was fun and enjoyable. Last year when I came on the court, I was quite emotional and stuff, because I hadn’t played for a long time but didn’t get loads of enjoyment out of the match. I was more worried about my hip than anything else.


“I have zero discomfort in my hip [now], like, after the match, like, nothing. And if I had done this last year, I’d be here aching, throbbing, and feel bad the next day.”


He even fell over a couple of times but it would appear that he has been taking lessons from the Parachute Regiment, that whole land-roll-bounce-straight- back-up-again movement. The crowd (and the press bunker) held its breath for a split second but Muzz didn’t bat an eyelid.


No one could really judge his movement because he is a singles player and here he was playing dubs with only half the court to cover. But we did see that the very expensive operation to put a tin lid on his femur and a tin cup in his pelvis (we have never claimed to be medical experts but we are quite good at DIY so this is an idiot’s guide to hip resurfacing surgery) allowed him to serve and scamper fully three paces in towards the net with no visible sign of discomfort or impingement. And come the second set, he was nipping about quite a bit more. It’s all good so far.


“I learnt quite a bit tonight,” he said. “I sort of expected to be the worst player on the court tonight and to not feel particularly good on the court, and I was prepared to feel that way, which was probably the case in the first set.


“But then I think I started to play better in the second and started to serve a bit better, see the returns a little bit better and things. So I’ll just keep pushing and see how it goes.


“But I feel optimistic about the future. I don’t know how long it will take to get to that level [of playing singles], but, you know, hopefully not too long.”


Until he gets there, he has a full diary of doubles commitments. He will play with Marcelo Melo in Eastbourne next week and he will join forces with Pierre-Hugues Herbert at Wimbledon. Now, for a bloke who reckoned that winning the Wimbledon doubles title was “possible” but “unlikely”, he has signed up with a pretty decent partner. Herbert has a career Grand Slam in dubs, won the Wimbledon dubs trophy in 2016 and is the current Australian Open dubs champion, all with Nicolas Mahut.


Herbert had been planning on concentrating on singles at both the French Open and Wimbledon but a couple of weeks ago, he changed his mind. Maybe playing with the Muzz in SW19 might be worth a punt.


Alas, the Muzz’s powers of persuasion are having less effect on the players of the WTA. He would like to play mixed at Wimbledon but already he has been turned down by a couple of candidates. What reasons could they possibly have to spurn you, the press pack asked.


“I can think of many,” he said with a big grin. “I asked singles players who had already committed to playing doubles and they didn’t want to commit to playing in three events, which I completely understand because it’s a lot. If you have ambitions to go far in the singles, you maybe don’t want to commit to playing all three.”


Clearly, then, our Muzz is entering the mixed event with intent. No chance of him being there to make up the numbers. But the sign in deadline for mixed is a long while away and he has Queen’s and Eastbourne to deal with first. Once he sees how he pulls up after several matches, he will make a final decision. Or ask a WTA player for the last time in the hope of not getting another rejection.


“If I’m feeling good, yeah, I will [play mixed],” he said. “I sort of asked a couple of people to play, but I need to wait and see how I’m feeling first, and if I feel good, then I would like to, yeah.”


If the next three weeks go as well as Thursday night, Muzz will be on the main road to his comeback. And five months ago, as he sobbed his way through his pre-tournament press conference at the Australian Open to tell the world that this was the end, that seemed like an impossible dream. But that’s the Muzz for you – give him a challenge and he’ll bust a gut to overcome it. And usually succeed.

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