- Murray marks competitive return with doubles victory at Queen’s alongside Lopez
- Murray to play doubles at Wimbledon with Herbert
Wimbledon is still two weeks away, but the BBC were able to get in some rescheduling practice early doors at Queen’s on Thursday evening.
Eggheads and The Repair Shop fans were left disappointed, but supporters of Andy Murray were not, as the former world number one returned to competitive action five months after hip resurfacing surgery.
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Not yet ready for singles, Murray accepted a Queen’s invitation to play doubles with Feliciano Lopez, and the duo were handed the difficult task of facing number one seeds Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the first round.
However, Murray and Lopez prevailed in their first match together, winning 7-6(5) 6-3 in front of a delighted crowd in west London.
How Murray fared on return
A backlogged schedule, including a three-set battle between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jeremy Chardy right before Murray’s match, meant it was not until 7pm that the first ball was tossed in this doubles encounter.
Murray admitted to having butterflies going into the match, the fact he had practiced just once with Lopez perhaps adding to the nerves, but the duo clapped hands to build up confidence after every point - a must for any doubles partnership - and looked increasingly solid against tops seeds Cabal and Farah, who won the doubles together in Barcelona and Rome before reaching the French Open semi-finals.
Feliciano Lopez and Andy Murray
Image credit: Getty Images
A Murray volley in the second game drew the first big cheer of the match, while another nerve-settling moment came in the fourth game when he held serve to 30.
All four players held serve without offering a single break point, and the first set ultimately headed to a tie-break.
A thrilling breaker saw Murray and Lopez edge ahead with a mini-break, but that was soon turned on its head when Murray lost both of his serves as Cabal and Farah edged 4-3 ahead.
However, lady luck was shining on Murray and Lopez’s side of the court, and particularly on the retuning Scotsman.
A fortunate net cord brought up set point, and Murray’s luck continued with another net cord to seal the set 7-5.
Murray turns on the style
With the momentum behind them, it was Murray and Lopez who brought up the first break points of the match, and though two opportunities evaded them, they broke to love in the sixth game.
Cheers met a dazzling backhand smash from Murray before gasps met a tumble from the 32-year-old, but this did not deter the former world number one as he and Lopez managed to stay ahead.
And with Lopez serving for the match, Murray showed incredible reactions at 0-15 to send a backhand beyond Cabal and Farah and get his doubles partner out of jail.
Three unreturned serves from Lopez later, and Murray’s comeback was complete.
Moment of the match
The verdict on Murray’s movement
Tennis players are used to waiting, but after five months out it was hardly an ideal welcome back for Murray as he patiently waited for the four preceding centre court matches to play out.
But when he did step out onto the grass, he looked a different player to the one that was limping around for the best part of two years.
His fight to become world number one and a three-time Grand Slam champion took a humongous toll on his body, but this was a Murray who certainly looked “pain-free” as he suggested earlier this month.
Andy Murray in action at Queen's
Image credit: Getty Images
The test will be how the body recovers in time for their next match, but on first showing it looks as though Murray and his team were right to introduce doubles in his road to recovery.
It is tempting to say ‘it’s like he’s never been away’, but judgement should be reserved until he has played day after day of competitive tennis.
In his own words…
"It was brilliant. I enjoyed it a lot. I was a little bit slow at the beginning but got better as the match went on.
"I'm very fortunate to be back playing tennis again.I love playing on this court, it's a brilliant place to play tennis.
I felt quite relaxed in the build-up today but I started to feel a bit nervous walking to the court. You want the nerves and the butterflies in the stomach and I had that today."
Lopez: I will not forget this match
"I want to thank Andy for playing with me this week. I told him already it was a nice moment for me sharing the court with him.
I will not forget this match. We played a good match. Thank you everybody for the support. I know I'm a little more British this week than usual since I'm playing with Sir Andy Murray.
"It was a lot of fun. The most important thing is that Andy is healthy and back on court."
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