Andy Murray can take many positives from his 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 defeat to Nick Kyrgios at Queens on Tuesday, which was the Brit’s first competitive match in 11 months.
A two-hour 39-minute clash against someone like Kyrgios is probably not the ideal way a player would want to make his comeback from hip surgery but Murray battled hard throughout and learnt a lot about where he is at, competition-wise, ahead of Wimbledon.
From the outside though, it’s difficult to judge Murray’s state mainly because Kyrgios was unpredictable during the match and at times playing schizophrenic tennis.
Here are things learned from Murray’s Queens opener…
My 4-year-old niece has just been introduced to Nick Kyrgios. She is already obsessed!
"Oh my God Reem did you see that spin?"
Of course she wasn't talking about the ball…pic.twitter.com/5SJodvkZsI
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) June 19, 2018
MURRAY CAN MOVE
All eyes were on the Scot’s hip and he surprised us with how well he was moving in his first match back. At one point in game six, Murray ran down a drop shot off of a Kyrgios half volley and it was that sprint that eased many people’s worries.
NOT TOO RUSTY
Murray fired 39 winners against just 26 unforced errors against Kyrgios. While he landed only 56 per cent of his first serves in, he won 76 per cent of the points on those first serves and 40 per cent of the points on his second serve. He also blasted 16 winners compared to Kyrgios’ 18. He wasn’t clinical on the break points though as he converted 4/11, which is still better than Kyrgios’ 3/11. The ex-world No. 1 was 13/17 at the net.
Sooooo good to see @andy_murray back playing again 💪🏼
— Elina Svitolina (@ElinaSvitolina) June 19, 2018
Murray yelling at his box after missing and roaring in celebration on his winners was probably a sight for his fans’ sore eyes. The 31-year-old said he had missed tennis and is purely back on court for the love of the game. That was evident throughout. Uncharacteristically donning a colorful Under Armour shirt – which he accidentally wore the wrong way during the match – Murray deservedly received a standing ovation when he stepped on the court. It may have been a losing return but he cannot be too disappointed with how played.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH KYRGIOS?
The paradox that is Nick Kyrgios continues to baffle. The Aussie has undeniable flair and he pulled out all the stops in the first few games, hitting tweeners, unleashing 137mph second serves, doing 360s before routine overheads and embodying the entertainer he truly is.
At the coin toss, he joked with Murray, who is a good friend of his, asking: “Do you remember how to do this, Andy?”
But at the tail-end of the first set, Kyrgios suffered a bizarre dip in form and concentration, played apathetically and looked completely out of it.
He somehow started the second set with a break, but alternated between aces and double faults, and would contest entire rallies by hitting forehand slices.
It was obvious he was physically starting to struggle when we saw a hint of a limp in his movement, and he held his hip from time to time. Kyrgios had hip trouble before his more recent elbow injury and it’s possible that injury has flared up.
Despite all that, Kyrgios walked away the winner, following up on his week in Stuttgart, where he lost to Roger Federer in a third-set tiebreak in the semi-finals, with a first victory over Murray in six meetings.
Murray is making his long-awaited return at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club this week after 11 months out with a hip injury.
The Scot had several aborted comebacks, having limped out of Wimbledon last July before going under the knife in January.
The pair, born just a week apart in 1987, have been long-time adversaries on court and have battled at the top of the men’s game for much of the last decade, competing in 19 finals, including seven at grand slams.
Djokovic has also suffered from injury problems over the last 18 months, which saw him undergo elbow surgery, and is excited for the Briton’s return.
“I wish him all the best, I really do, tennis misses him, he is a great champion, a great guy, really dedicated, hard working, great ethics,” the Serbian, who is also playing at Queen’s, said.
“I really hope to see him back playing at that level he has played over the last couple of years.
“I have known him since we were 11 or 12 years old, I have always had a wonderful relationship with Andy, never experienced anything negative, we have been and still are big rivals on the court and we have had so many great matches, he deserves the chance to come back.
“Coming back from a major injury inspires you, you are breathing a new breath of life. I am sure he is more motivated than ever.”
Murray practised with British number two Cameron Norrie on Friday before deciding to play in a tournament he has won five times.
Norrie said of the two-set informal match: “I played flat out, it was a proper match and we went at it and there was no mercy.
“He is playing well, he obviously hasn’t played many matches so a couple of points he wasn’t quite at it, but he is hitting the ball well and moving great and everyone is pretty pleased to have him back.”
Murray has chosen a tough tournament in which to make his comeback, with a particularly strong field of players who enjoy the grass.
As well as three-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic, there is also 2016 and 2017 SW19 runners-up Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic along with 2014 Queen’s winner Grigor Dimitrov.
Aside from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, it has been Cilic who has been the best performer at the biggest tournaments since the fall of Murray and Djokovic and he hopes to muscle in on the number one ranking.
He said: “The ultimate goal is to reach number one.
“That’s my goal in terms of my tennis results and looking ahead for my improvement.
“That would mean I would have to win a couple of grand slams. You can’t actually be number one without winning those big tournaments so that’s a big focus and big goal.”
Andy Murray will return to competitive tennis after almost a year out at the Queen’s Club next week.
The three-time major winner has not played since last year’s Wimbledon due to a hip injury and subsequent surgery.
He practised at Queen’s on Friday ahead of next week’s Fever-Tree Championships, delayed a decision until Saturday and then told tournament officials he would be there.
“Andy Murray has confirmed that he will play in the Fever-Tree Championships,” the tournament said on its official Twitter account.