Andy Murray's comeback starts here

March 29, 2018

British tennis fans have had plenty to keep them interested in recent months. Johanna Konta has changed coach, Kyle Edmund reached the Australian open semi-finals, and only those with the narrowest of focus will not have been interested in wider events - such as Serena Williams' comeback and the see-saw battle for the men's number one spot between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Nonetheless, many will have been keenly focused on Andy Murray's battle to regain fitness after his chronic hip complaint. Fans booking corporate hospitality for the Championships, Wimbledon may remember only too well that it was at the All England Club that Murray last played a competitive match, his title defence ending as he virtually played on one leg.

Having found that rest alone was not enough to cure the problem by the time the Australian Open came around, his time in Melbourne was spent not on court but in hospital as he finally opted for surgery. 

Since then, fans have anxiously awaited news of progress and so far, all the signs have been good. This week, however, brought the first tangible demonstration that the Olympic champion is on the comeback trail as images appeared of him back on the practice courts.

Anticipation will now grow further with the news that Murray has signed up for the Libema Open in the Netherlands, a grass court tournament that will take place a week before the Fever-Tree championships at the Queen's Club. Previously known as the Ricoh Open and played in s’-Hertogenbosch, the event is an ATP 250 tournament and, apart from the handy haul of ranking points on offer, it will give the Scot a chance to play against better players than a challenger tour event would.  

Last year's tournament in s’-Hertogenbosch was won by Gilles Muller, who beat Ivo Karlovic in the final. Big names taking part included Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev, so this is no minor tournament for rookies. Murray will be properly tested and, if he wins, will have great momentum heading to the Queen's Club. 

Having committed himself to playing at Queen's for the rest of his career, Murray's appearance there will be warmly welcomed and will be the commencement of his first rankings battle; that for the British number one spot with Kyle Edmund, who will also play at the west London venue. Edmund was sure to overtake Murray after his run in Melbourne and is now 26th in the world, with Murray 29th. However, the 23-year-old could build up his lead by doing well in the clay court season. 

At present, Edmund is on 1,627 points and Murray 1,450, so the gap could easily be closed if the Yorkshireman cannot extend his lead on clay, a surface where his booming forehand should be a formidable weapon. 

Last year, Edmund did not get past the second round of a clay court tournament until his run to the last 16 in Lyon, before making the last 32 in the French Open. The draws did not help him, however, as his second-round exits at Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome came against Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Juan Martin del Potro respectively.  

Nonetheless, unless Edmund can make a serious impact such as winning his first ATP title, attention could very swiftly switch back to Murray. That he is on the way back is not in doubt. Whether the Libema Open and the Fever-Tree Championships will give him enough momentum to win a third Wimbledon crown remains to be seen. 

Image: David Ramos/Getty Images from Keith Prowse subscription

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