London (AFP) – Andy Murray will make his long awaited return from hip surgery at Queen’s Club next week, while his old rival Novak Djokovic arrives at the Wimbledon warm-up hoping to end his wretched run.
Murray has not played a competitive match since he was knocked out of the Wimbledon quarter-finals last July as a hip injury brought a painful end to his season.
The former world number one underwent surgery in January after pulling out of the 2017 US Open and this year’s Australian Open.
Murray made a tentative commitment to appear in the grass-court tournament in Rosmalen this week, before again pulling out at the last minute to spark fresh fears that he wouldn’t make it back in time for Wimbledon.
But the two-time Wimbledon champion has been practising regularly for the past fortnight and a final workout on Friday at Queen’s Club with fellow Briton Cameron Norrie convinced him to return.
“I’ve been practising the last couple of weeks and obviously building up each day. I started playing sets about a week ago,” Murray said on Saturday.
“So, I played probably seven or eight sets, and I wanted to feel how I felt the following day after playing a couple of sets with Cam Norrie.
“I got tested by my physios this morning to make sure I hadn’t stiffened up and lost any range of motion in my hip which can happen when you’re tired and the hip’s a bit angry.
“That wasn’t the case. That was all positive and I pulled up pretty well from that, so then I decided to go for it.”
Murray faces temperamental but talented Australian Nick Kyrgios in the Queen’s first round as he builds up to the start of Wimbledon on July 2.
Murray, a five-time Queen’s winner, had only been seen on court during a charity match against Roger Federer last November and one exhibition set against Roberto Bautista Agut in December.
And, after such a long and frustrating rehabilitation period, the world number 157 admits it will be a tense moment when he gets back on the court to face Kyrgios.
“Well it’s obviously eleven months since I last competed. So obviously I’m looking forward to it. There are a lot of doubts though as well when you’ve not played for a long time,” Murray said.
“Coming back from injury you’re always kind of second guessing yourself.
“You never know exactly when you’re going to be ready, but I’m looking forward to getting back out there and competing, and hopefully playing well.”
– Embarrassing –
Like Murray, Djokovic has endured a frustrating period.
Djokovic is a lowly 21st in the rankings after an embarrassing French Open quarter-final defeat against Italian journeyman Marco Cecchinato.
The struggling Serb hasn’t earned a major title since competing his career Grand Slam by winning the 2016 French Open.
Djokovic has failed to reach the semi-finals in any of his last five Grand Slam appearances.
A 12-time Grand Slam winner, Djokovic traditionally opts against playing a pre-Wimbledon event.
But, dogged by rumours that he no longer has the motivation and desire to return to the top, he has decided to start his bid for a fourth Wimbledon crown earlier than usual by accepting a Queen’s wild card.
“Grass is very special, it is the rarest of surfaces so I’m happy I’ll have the opportunity to compete at this strong tournament, which will also be a great preparation for Wimbledon,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic, who plays a qualifier in the first round, is one of 14 of the world’s top 30 in the strongest draw the west London event has even seen.
Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Stan Wawrinka are among the other stars in action.