The stuff of dreams: Andy Murray marks return with victory in Queen’s doubles
Andy Murray marked his return to tennis, following a potentially career-ending hip surgery, alongside partner Feliciano Lopez, claiming victory in the Queen’s club doubles. Alex Grant reports.
Andy Murray marked his return to tennis, following a potentially career-ending hip surgery, on Sunday as he, alongside partner Feliciano Lopez, claimed victory in the Queen’s club doubles.
Murray alongside Lopez, who earlier in the day had beat Frenchman Gilles Simon to win the Queen’s club singles title, completed their remarkable week with a hard fought 7-6 5-7 10-5 victory over American Rajeev Ram and Murray’s fellow Brit Joe Salisbury.
Singles and doubles scheduling conflicts meant that Lopez, 37, came into the final facing his fifth match in two days, whilst Murray was going for his first ATP doubles crown since claiming victory, alongside older brother Jamie, at the Tokyo 500 event in 2011.
This perhaps showed as Salisbury and Ram claimed first blood in the contest, breaking the Murray serve to lead 4-3 opening set, before setting themselves up with a set point opportunity whilst serving at 5-4. Murray and Lopez rallied, however, breaking back before forcing the set into a tiebreak but the favourites soon fell behind once more as Salisbury and Ram raced into a 5-1, tiebreak lead. Once again Murray and Lopez dug-deep fighting back to win the tiebreak, saving another set point in the process, to snatch the first set from under the noses of their opponents.
This time it was Salisbury and Ram’s turn to show their metal, staying strong to keep touch with their opponents as the second set got underway. Saving four break point opportunities on the Ram serve whilst serving at 3-3 the pair was showing no signs of going away and when presented with break point opportunities of their own, with Murray serving at 5-6, they made no mistake with their set points this time around to take the second set 7-5 and send the match into a deciding set super tie-break.
Again there was little to separate the two sides with the first eight points of the deciding tiebreak all going the way of the server with it becoming clear that it would likely take a moment of brilliance to separate the two and brilliance it was, off the racket of man of the moment Feliciano Lopez, who fired five winners in a row to hand he and Murray five championship points. They only required the two though as Salisbury fired wide off a Murray serve to confirm a fairy-tale week for the pair.
For Murray victory comes just a mere five months after he broke down in tears during a press conference at the Australian Open where the Scot revealed the true extent of the hip injury, which had left him unable to put on his shoes and socks without pain.
Meanwhile for Lopez his remarkable double triumph sees him become the first man since Australia’s Mark Philippoussis in 1997 to win both the singles and doubles titles at Queen’s in the same year.
Speaking following the triumph Murray, 32, was keen to express his joy at just being back on the tennis court stating:
“I felt relaxed at the beginning of the week, but felt more nervous as it went on. I think my competitive instincts started kicking in. My hip has felt great, pain-free. I’ll try to keep progressing, but am just happy to be back on the court.”
The Scottish superstar also revealed his desire to return to the singles court but has no intentions of putting a date on when that much anticipated return could occur:
“I’m happy with playing tennis and training and having no pain anymore. If I keep progressing, I would like to try to play singles,” said Murray. “My schedule could potentially be a bit different. I might not play three weeks in a row or two weeks back-to-back, for example. But I’m just quite happy doing what I’m doing now and just taking each week as it comes.”
Lopez meanwhile expressed his amazement at his own week and his delight to see his partner back on the match court:
“This happens maybe only once in a lifetime. I can’t believe it,” said Lopez. “I’m so happy for Andy to play with me and we’re so happy he’s back on the tennis court.”
For Murray focus will now switch to Eastbourne where he will team up with Brazilian Marcelo Melo as he continues his preparations for his long awaited return to Wimbledon, starting July 1, where he will partner French doubles expert Pierre-Hugues Herbert and play mixed doubles with a as yet unconfirmed partner.