QUEEN’S: To say that Andy Murray has had a turbulent past six months is an understatement.
Heading into the Australian Open, he didn’t know how or if he could continue his career. Telling reporters during a highly emotional press conference in Melbourne that he may have to walk away from the sport due to injury. Then after his first-round loss to Roberto Bautista Agut, a video was played of players paying tribute to him. A common occurrence that is used to mark somebody entering into retirement. However, Murray was determined to give it one last go.
Hip resurfacing surgery helped transform the three-time grand slam champion from the brink of despair to training once again on the courts. The journey has been testing both mentally and physically, but it was certainly worth it.
Teaming up with Feliciano Lopez at The Fever-Tree Championships, a packed crowd of more than 9000 spectators welcomed him back to the ATP Tour on Thursday. The cheers were back and so was Murray’s passion. Taking on top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, Murray and Lopez prevailed 7-6(5), 6-3. An impressive performance against the Colombian doubles specialists, who were runners-up at this year’s Australian Open.
“I expected to enjoy the match because I told myself I was going to regardless of what happened.” A chuffed looking Murray said during his press conference.
“I spoke a bit about that with my coach and my team, regardless of the result, you need to make sure you enjoy this because a few months ago I had no clue whether I’d be back playing on a court.”
It wasn’t the first time Queen’s has served as the venue of Murray’s comeback. A year ago he played his first tournament of 2018 after being sidelined due to his hip. On that occasion, he fell to Nick Kyrgios in three sets. However, this time around, it is a different feeling for various reasons.
“This felt different to last year, 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.” He explained.
“Whereas now I feel like although I’m not, you know, at my best kind of physically, I feel like I’m always making improvements and I have no pain.”
A cautious step forward
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Brazzingly admitting that he expected to be ‘the worst player on the court,’ it is clear that Murray’s return is gaining momentum. On the court, he chased after the ball and wasn’t afraid to throw himself around in order to win the point. Something that would have been unimaginable a couple of months ago.
In the foreseeable future, it looks like it will be a case of trial and error for Murray concerning his limitations. No date has been provided yet about when he will return to singles competition. Allowing him to focus solely on the doubles.
“I have zero discomfort in my hip after the match, nothing.” Murray states. “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, you know, hopefully not too long.”
It was after his match with Lopez that Murray confirmed who would be teaming up with him at Wimbledon. Putting an end to the numerous speculation that has arisen in recent days. His partner will be France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Who won the 2016 Wimbledon title with Nicolas Mahut. Herbert had initially declined to play in the doubles at the upcoming grand slam before having a change of heart.
At The All England Club, the Brit has also indicated that he would be up for playing in the mixed doubles as well. Depending on how his fitness progresses. However, finding a partner isn’t as simple as he would like.
“I’ve 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.” He said.
Murray will return to the grass court at Queens on Friday. In the time being, he can bask in his triumphant return to professional tennis.
American No.3 Reilly Opelka Blasts ‘Shocking’ ATP Cup
The new event has been described as unfair and a embarrassment by the American.
With the Davis Cup currently under close scrutiny this week, one player on the tour have turned his criticism to a brand new team event coming to the tour in 2020.
Reilly Opelka has launched a verbal attack on the ATP Cup, which will get underway in January. The event features 24 teams playing in three cities across Australia. Unlike the Davis Cup, both prize money and ranking points are available. Many of the world’s top players have already confirmed their intention to play in the event. Although one noticeable absence will be Roger Federer.
“The ATP Cup is pathetic. I think it’s shocking on behalf of the ATP for them to pass that and allow that.” The 22-year-old told reporters in Madrid.
“It’s pretty embarrassing, actually. It’s pretty bad for the sport. It makes it (the tour) more top-heavy than it already is.”
The teams for the ATP Cup are determined by the ranking of the country’s highest ranked player. However, with only two singles players allowed to play in each team some countries find themselves in a tough spot. Once being America, who currently has eight players in the top 100. Opelka argues that due to the rules of the competition, the distribution of ranking points is unfair.
“I’m 35 in the world. I’m not going to play because I’m the second- or third-highest ranked American, and only the top two guys play.” He stated.
“It counts as an additional 19th tournament. So every player gets 18 tournaments on their ranking card. So you have to take your top 18 results, those go for your ranking. Those that play ATP Cup gets a 19th. So it’s unfair, there’s not equal opportunity for everyone.”
Opelka used the example of Moldova playing in the ATP Cup as one of the reasons why he is frustrated. The country has qualified due to the ranking of their top player Radu Albot, who is currently ranked 46th in the world. However, Moldova’s second highest ranked player is outside the top 800.
Fortunately concerning the Davis Cup, the former Wimbledon junior champion has a much more favourable view. This week is the inaugural week-long finals, which has encountered some blips already. The most being the schedule of the event with some ties now finishing until as late as 4am.
“I’m a fan of the new format. Maybe making it every two years or every three years would be I think the next step in the right direction.” Opelka concluded.
“Tennis players are pretty good at that. You don’t really know when you’re going to play matches. You can go really long, or you can go really quick. We’re used to being on standby.” He added.
This week is Opelka’s debut in the Davis Cup.
Serbia beats France 2-1 to secure spot in Davis Cup quarter final
Serbia qualified for the quarter finals at the Davis Cup at the Caja Magica in Madrid with wins in both singles matches by Filip Krajinovic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic over Benoit Paire.
In the opening match Filip Kajinovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5 7-6 in 1 hour and 48 minutes to give Serbia a 1-0 lead.
Krajinovic dropped two points on his first serve and earned his first three break point at 3-3 before breaking serve in the 11th game after a loose forehand from Tsonga. The 27-year-old Serbian player sealed the opening set 7-5 with a service winner.
Tsonga fended off three break points in the opening game of the second set. The Frenchman earned his only break point chance on return at 2-1, but Krajinovic saved it to draw level to 2-2. Both players held serve in the next eight games to set up a tie-break. Krajinovic earned the crucial mini-break on the 12th point to close out tie-break 7-5.
World number 2 Novak Djokovic cruised past Benoit Paire 6-3 6-3 in 70 minutes to secure the qualifying spot for Serbia in the quarter final.
Djokovic saved two break points in the first match of the opening set. The Serbian player earned a break in the eighth game and sealed the opening set 6-3 on his third set point.
Paire dropped his serve in the third game of the second set after a backhand down the line winner from Djokovic. The Serbian star hit a return winner at 5-3 to set up a quarter final clash against Russia on Friday.
Last week’s ATP Finals champions Pierre Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut beat Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki 6-4 6-4. Herbert and Mahut broke serve in the fifth game to seal the opening set 6-4. Tipsarevic and Troicki broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Herbert and Mahut got the break back in the fifth game. After saving a break point in the eighth game Herbert and Mahut earned the decisive break in the ninth game and closed out the match on his first set point.
Serbia set up a quarter final against Russia, who qualified as one of the two-best-placed group runners-up by clinching second spot in Group.
Jack Sock and Sam Querrey take late-night decisive doubles clash over Italy
The clash between Italy and the USA came down to a decisive doubles match at the Caja Magica in Madrid after Fabio Fognini and Taylor Fritz won their respective singles matches.
Fabio Fognini beat Relly Opelka 6-4 6-7 6-3 after 1 hour and 54 minutes to give Italy a much-needed win to the Italian team.
Fognini earned an early break at 1-1 after two errors from Opelka and dropped just five points in five service games. Fognini did not face a break point to close out the first set 6-4 in 33 minutes.
Both players stayed neck and neck setting up a tie-break. Opelka earned a mini-break to take a 5-3 lead in the tie-break and earned three set points. The US player sealed the first set point, but Opelka converted his second chance 7-4.
Opelka saved the first break point with an ace, but Fognini converted his second chance with a forehand passing shot in the second set to take a 2-0 lead. Fognini dropped just three points to build up a 5-2 lead. Fognini served out the win on his first match point to give Italy a 1-0 win.
“I am tired for sure because it was tough. One of the things I did today was my serve, don’t ask me why. I am surprised about that”, said Fognini.
Taylor Fritz came back from one set down to beat Matteo Berrettini 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 in the second match. Berrettini saved a break point in the second game with a forehand down the line and a service winner. In the fifth game Fritz saved two break points in the fifth game. Berrettini broke serve in the 11th game to take a 6-5 and sealed the first set on his first set point.
In the third set both players stayed neck and neck til the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. In the seventh game Fritz saved a break point. Berrettini held his serve at love. Fritz closed out the second set at 6-5 after 51 minutes.
Berrettini saved two consecutive break points in the first game of the third game. Fritz rallied from 0-30 down to hold his serve for 1-1. Fritz broke twice in the third and fifth games to race out to a 5-1 lead. Berrettini saved a match point and held his serve for 2-5, but Fritz sealed the win on his second match point.
“Playing for my country is all the motivation I need. I just kept digging, kept fighting. It was really close. I lost the first set by close margin, and I told myself to tough out the second set like I know I can do, and my aggressive and fitness carried me through the third”,said Fritz.
Jack Sock and Sam Querrey came back from a set down in the decisive doubles match to take a 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 to give the USA a 2-1 win. The doubles match ended shortly after 4 am and was one of the latest finishes to a match in tennis history. The USA finished second in the Group F behind Canada, who secured the first spot with their wins over Italy and the USA earlier this week. Neither team was able to earn a break in the first two sets. Italy broke serve to take a 3-1 lead. Sock and Querrey broke back immediately before earning the decisive break at 4-4. The US team served out the win after 2 hours and 30 minutes.
“Reilly played a great match and Taylor came out in in a tough position knowing he needed to win. To get the doubles means a lot”, said Querrey.
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