Murray has different expectations before comeback number three
The former world number one returns in the Fever-Tree Championships in doubles with Feliciano López
Andy Murray during a practice session ahead of the Fever-Tree Championship at the Queen’s Club in London. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA Wire
Andy Murray made it eloquently clear on the eve of his third comeback that his expectations have shifted from an all-out quest for victory – the hunger that broke his body – to enjoying tennis for the simple pleasure of hitting a ball.
Four months after a second operation on his troublesome hip, the former world No 1 (now 215) returns in the Fever-Tree Championships in London in doubles on Wednesday with Feliciano López against the best combination in the game, Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah.
Murray, who turned 32 last month, said on Sunday there was a moment recently that rekindled his love of the game he has played since he was young, and how he was reminded he might never again reach the level that delivered him three slam titles and two Olympic gold medals.
“I hit some balls with some kids a few weeks ago. I was practising on the court next to them. Seeing young kids running around and hitting tennis balls, just loving practising and playing, it makes you remember that is how you started – and the reason why you do it is because it is fun and you love it and it becomes a passion.
“Yes, everyone wants to do well in their job but, ultimately, all you can do is do your best – and my best now might not be what it was when I was 25 in terms of what that looks like on a court. Who knows? Maybe it will be in a few months. Right now it certainly isn’t, so I can’t be expecting to put in that kind of performance.”
Murray admitted: “There were a number of times over the last 18 months that I did want to stop. I didn’t want to play any more. I was getting no enjoyment out of tennis at all, whether that be training, practice, winning matches. I wasn’t really bothered because it wasn’t fun. Now it is nice. I just like playing.”
López, who won the 2016 French Open doubles title with Marc López and was the singles champion here two years ago, said: “As soon as you hit a few balls with him, you realise that he still has the feeling, the touch. You don’t lose these abilities from one day to another. He is one of the greatest players ever, and he is still playing great.”
Murray said this comeback felt like the first, six years ago after minor back surgery, but different from his aborted attempt when he rushed his return after his first major hip operation in 2018.
“When I had my back operation the pain was significantly better. I had this one [four months ago] and the pain was also significantly better. They feel kind of similar. The operation I had in January last year and the groin surgery just before then, there was no change or difference in my pain. So those comebacks felt quite different to this one because I now have no pain or discomfort.
“When you get on the court there is a risk of something happening. I have a metal hip now, so people may worry about that; there are things that could go wrong. But I’m in pretty good shape, I’m healthy and I’ve trained loads. I have done a bunch of rehab. We’ll see how it goes.”