By Ros Satar

  • Andy Murray finally made his return, five months after what could be a career-saving hip resurfacing operation
  • He and partner Feliciano Lopez beat the top seeds Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal.
LONDON, UK – Andy Murray made his much-anticipated return to ATP Tour action in the doubles with Feliciano Lopez.

 

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The Return

Rain did its best to disrupt it, but the feverish (sorry) excitement over the return of Andy Murray has been building for a while. After his tearful press conference, and then the magic of that first round match on Australia, showing just what a fighter he is, came the day many fans and pundits had been waiting for.

Of course, drawing the top seeds Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal was not going to make any kind of fairy-tale return easy, but who cared. He was back, he has been telling us he is pain free, and we got to see him in action.

His movement and ability to change direction were a joy to see – so long were we used to watching hi move to play a point and then pull up lame. Even when he took a slight tumble, he bounced right back up much to the relief of all.

To add to the occasion, he and Lopez handed a first round defeat to the top seeded 7-6(5) 6-3 which more importantly ensures more match-time on court.

 

The Verdict

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In the run-up to the event he had spoken to BBC Breakfast’s Sally Nugent, explaining how he was now able to do so much more, and how even playing with his children had become uncomfortable with the pain, so how did he feel after finally playing through a match?

He told BBC Sport: “It was brilliant. I enjoyed it a lot. I was a bit slow at the beginning and got better as the match went on. Leading up to the match I was quite relaxed but I was a bit nervous when we started walking to the court. You want the nerves and the butterflies in the stomach and I had that.”

He continued: “I learnt quite a bit tonight. I expected to be the worst player and to not feel particularly good on the court, 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.

“I have zero discomfort in my hip after the match. Nothing. And if I had done this last year, I’d be here aching, throbbing, and feel bad the next day. 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, but, hopefully not too long.”

 

Who has brought about this miraculous return?

Hip-surgeon Sarah Muirhead-Allwood, who has previously operated on the late Queen Mother, was behind the knife of the procedure of resurfacing his hip. The femur head is smoothed down and covered with a metal cap, which he has described as “life-changing” and leaves him pain-free after a number of years of struggling through it.

Bob Bryan also returned about after months of having a hip-resurfacing operation but the game of doubles is a very different beast to that of singles, so while it remains to be seen if Murray can make a meaningfully competitive return to singles, he certainly is not ruling out trying to go solo by the end of this year.

 

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Partnering up

 

Next stop for Murray after he finishes at Queen’s Club will be Eastbourne, where he will partner former No. 1 doubles plater Marcelo Melo, a two-time Grand Slam men’s champion (2015 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon) and he is currently fourth in the men’s doubles ranking.

He has also scored a coup of getting French career Grand Slam doubles champion Pierre-Hugues Herbert onside. Herbert, who split with partner Nicolas Mahut to concentrate in his singles had not intended to play doubles at Wimbledon.

Talking to BBC Sport, Murray said: “He is a brilliant doubles player. He hadn’t planned on playing doubles at Wimbledon this year. In the last couple of weeks, he chatted with his coach and thought it would be a nice opportunity.”

Ashleigh Barty after winning Roland Garros 2019. France

Ashleigh Barty after winning Roland Garros 2019. France | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

However, he also revealed that he had been turned down for the Mixed Doubles a couple of times, including Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty. In his column for BBC Sport, he admitted he had been rejected a couple of times, stressing it was in the nicest possible way.

“I asked her during the French Open and she said no because she is already playing in singles and doubles, so didn’t want to play in three competitions. Of course, I understood that.

“She also said: “There’s many better out there than me.’ Then a few days later she won the French Open, so I fired her a message saying I told her she was one of the best – but she still rejected me!

“It is a shame we can’t play together because I want the best partner possible. I’m sure I will find another great partner, providing I feel good enough to play the men’s and mixed doubles. That said, I need to wait and see how I’m feeling first.”

 

Next steps

After a winning start, and to some degree the hype and hullaballoo that accompanied his return to the tour, it is now back down to business. He might face the all British pairing of Daniel Evans and Ken Skupski – they will play Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex De Minaur in the afternoon.


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