Andy Murray finds belief in the familiar ahead of Wimbledon campaign

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Andy Murray still has the game to go on a Wimbledon run this year. He believes it – he always has – but this time there is a difference and the two-time champion has a coach back in his corner who believes in it, too. The return of Ivan Lendl, who oversaw Murray’s Wimbledon titles in 2013 and 2016, has helped bring more than just a flash of a familiar face this week. Instead of doubts of injury concerns and whispers of late fitness tests, there is cautious excitement building at the prospect of the 35-year-old embarking on an unlikely and long-awaited tournament journey into the second week of a slam.

There were others who did not have the same faith, and some would say with good reason. While the grand slams have been the scene of Murray’s best moments since undergoing hip surgery five years ago, they have also seen some of his lowest. It’s been after the defeats to Denis Shapovalov at last season’s Wimbledon, or to Taro Daniel at January’s Australian Open, where there has been the open questioning of how long he can continue, let alone get back to the position of competing at a major tournament.

It is why when Murray was searching for a new, top-level coach that the former world No 1 was met with rejection. “That was difficult to deal with,” Murray revealed ahead of the Championships, but with Lendl it was different. “There’s obviously good coaches out there. I don’t know how many that you’d really want to work with if you’re trying to win the major events. That’s why I’m grateful that Ivan has come back to work with me and help me try and achieve what it is I want to achieve.”

Many who have watched Murray’s performances on grass over the past few weeks know that this could be the year he gets his teeth stuck into a grand slam once again. The victories over Stefanos Tsitsipas, his best in terms of ranking since 2016, and Nick Kyrgios on the grass in Stuttgart underlined that Murray was coming into form. But even more so in the defeat to Matteo Berrettini, one of the Wimbledon favourites, in the final, he proved that even now he has the game to go far, especially in a field that has been narrowed by the absences of Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev.

“I showed a couple of weeks ago that there was still good tennis left in me. I mean, I beat a guy in the top five in the world,” Murray said. “I was neck and neck with Berrettini, who is one of the best grass-court players in the world, before the injury. I know the tennis is in there; I just need to bring it out during the event now.”

Lendl oversaw the greatest victories of Murray’s career and has returned for a second spell (Getty)
Lendl oversaw the greatest victories of Murray’s career and has returned for a second spell (Getty)

These are the weeks, after all, that Murray builds towards. As a result, the grand slams have been the scene for most of the memorable moments of this challenging and distinctive closing chapter to what has already been a historic career. We have had the drama, the epic five-set victories, the fights and battles against the dying of the light. They themselves have at times lit up the opening days of a slam, including at Wimbledon last year, but what they had in common is they have not lasted for long, not past the third round or into the second week.

Murray, whatever condition he is in, has always proved that he has the fight. That has never been in doubt but there were some signs as we return to Wimbledon, even if they have been tempered by the same concerns surfacing around injury niggles, that there was enough there to be able to dare to dream.

The serve, in particular, has been working nicely and the return of Lendl – who although a little rounder and a little older, still looks exactly the same – has led to an impact to stand up to the partnership’s previous achievements. There is an irony that it was the serve, Murray’s biggest weapon heading into Wimbledon, that was the source of this latest pre-tournament injury but any concerns have been dismissed ahead of the opening day. “It’s gone well,” Murray said of his build-up. “I’ve been able to gradually progress my training this week and got to play a few sets, a lot of points. The last few days have been good.”

Murray was down following a straight sets defeat to Denis Shapovalov in 2021 (Getty)
Murray was down following a straight sets defeat to Denis Shapovalov in 2021 (Getty)

He remains without a match in two weeks, though, following what was incidentally his longest run of matches in years after competing at the Surbiton Trophy and then the Stuttgart Open in quick succession. The contrast to last season is clear, where Murray barely practised in the build-up to Wimbledon and when he did, his movement was limited. “I was not feeling good until about four days before Wimbledon,” Murray has since said. “But my preparation was non-existent.”

Strangely, we find ourselves facing a situation that is a little bit of the same and a little bit different also. If Murray’s body is fine, the rest could be what he needs ahead of what he hopes to be a run of best-of-five matches. Still, every slight grimace, limp or shuffle will be monitored. At this stage of his career, they will always be. It’s been those limps, and in those frank moments of admission we’ve seen before, that leave uncertainty over every match. Yet still, it is met by the reminder that Murray once again competing on this stage and at the scene of so many of his greatest memories cannot be taken for granted.

There was less focus on what lies beyond this time, though, as Murray prepares for his first “normal” Wimbledon since 2019. “Having Ivan on my team helps, we’ve had a lot of success in the past,” Murray said. “He still believes in me. There’s not loads of coaches, you know, people out there that have done over this last period, and he has.”

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