After a straight-sets loss to countryman Kyle Edmund at the Nature Valley International on Wednesday, former World No. 1 Andy Murray took time to reflect on his comeback performances after an 11-month absence from the ATP World Tour.
Murray focussed on his progress, rather than results, as a measure of success after falling to the 23-year-old Brit after one hour and 40 minutes. The 31-year-old, who lost to Nick Kyrgios in three sets in the Fever-Tree Championships first round last week, notched his first tour-level victory in almost a year on Monday against former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka.
“I need to be very patient just now and not get too high or low depending on a few results,” said Murray. “Hopefully things can continue to go in the right direction, but… it takes time and I’ll certainly give it my best shot.”
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Tough draws have not helped the 45-time tour-level titlist’s return to action, with Kyrgios and Wawrinka his first opponents at The Queen’s Club and Eastbourne. But the top-level opponents have provided Murray with a chance to compare his game with the world’s elite.
“Certainly the last couple of weeks have been positive, and I’ve [played] three matches all against top, top players,” said Murray. “Obviously Stan (Wawrinka) is coming back from injury, as well, but Kyle and Nick (Kyrgios) are Top 20 players. A couple of weeks ago I probably wasn’t sure whether I was going to be able to do that or not. So that’s a positive thing, and hopefully things keep going in that sort of direction.”
In both of Murray’s losses, to Kyrgios and Edmund, the British star has tried to gain valuable knowledge about his level, in terms of performance, physical conditioning and match sharpness.
“With each match I’m trying to gain information about where I’m at physically and where my game is at. The matches have been helpful for that… With Nick I felt like I was returning huge, huge serves but also getting more free points on my serve.
“Today, that wasn’t really the case. I was reacting a lot on the court rather than being the one that was dictating on my own serve. They are the sort of things that when you play against the best players, which obviously Kyle is one of them, over the course of the match, that tells a little bit,” reflected Murray.
One element of Murray’s game that may take some time to return to peak condition appears to be his serve. The 2016 Nitto ATP Finals champion won just 59 per cent of service points in his loss to the Grand Prix Hassan II runner-up and was broken on three occasions.
“My serve has been something that’s been a struggle to practise,” admitted Murray. “I haven’t really hit loads of serves in the last 11 months or so. Maybe it’s been a bit more inconsistent, or up and down, a bit like the rest of my game at times.”
An interesting side note to Murray’s absence on the ATP World Tour in the past year has been the emergence of Edmund. Edmund overtook Murray to become the new British No. 1 on 5 March after a strong start to the 2018 season, which included a run to his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open.
“I’m really happy that Kyle’s doing really well,” said Murray. “It’s great for British tennis… Obviously this is a really good thing for British tennis that, with the stage of my career I’m at, [there is] another player at the top of the game. Hopefully he’ll be competing for the biggest tournaments.”
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With the third Grand Slam of the season taking place next week at Wimbledon, two-time champion Murray shared his mindset as he prepares to make the decision on whether or not to participate on the mown lawns of the All England Club.
“It’s just [a matter of] whether I feel like I’m able to do myself justice… Two weeks ago I practised with Kyle and I didn’t win a game,” shared Murray. “That was the first set or points that I played in six months… I have made decent improvements the last couple of weeks and obviously have been somewhat competitive in the matches that I have played.
“I don’t just want to go out there to just play. I want to be able to compete properly. And if I don’t feel like I can do that, then I won’t play. If I do and physically I feel ready, mentally I’m in the right place, then I’ll go for it.”