Andy Murray remains a huge inspiration to the rest of the British tennis pack according to current UK men’s No1 Cameron Norrie – who watched the 35-year-old Scot roll back the years with a magnificent run to the final earlier this month in Stuttgart.
Murray, a two-time former Wimbledon singles champion with also a US Open and two Olympic singles golds on his CV, has proven to be something of a medical miracle after undergoing two right hip surgeries and all but seeing his career obituaries written at the Australian Open in 2019.
But this year the player for so long the talisman of British tennis forced his way back into the world’s top 50 – currently standing just outside at No51 – and in Germany this month beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios, before only just being edged out in three sets in the final by Matteo Berrettini, despite picking up a problem with his stomach that sparked an injury scare ahead of the London grand slam.
World No12 Norrie said: “It is impressive what Andy is doing. He is going every day and giving it everything. He obviously loves the sport and loves tennis, and for me it was great to see him playing well in Stuttgart, he obviously loves the grass.
“I think he is going to be very tough to beat at Wimbledon, he always is and I have a lot of respect for him. Even over the last couple of years he would probably have liked to do a bit better results-wise, and all credit for keeping going and not caring too much what other people think – but just going out and taking care of business.
“He started to get some rewards in Stuttgart and was unlucky in the end to pick up a little injury. He has made two finals this year and will go into Wimbledon with a week’s rest and a week’s practice. He will be tough to beat and I look forward to seeing how he goes.”
British No2 Dan Evans was practicing with Murray on the Wimbledon courts last week before the 32-year-old from Birmingham, currently ranked No33 in the world, headed down to Eastbourne.
Evans, who lost to eventual winner Matteo Berrettini at Queen’s, said: “I hit with Andy at Wimbledon so it was pretty familiar surroundings and it was nice to see everyone, I had not seen Ivan Lendl and those guys for a while, and all his team.
“I thought he was playing pretty well against me in practice, I can’t comment on if he thinks he is playing well. I am not sure how the injury is, we didn’t speak about it. It seemed fine when we practiced but I can’t be sure. It was good fun, and I think he is happy to have Ivan back and it looks to be working. They were smiling – the pair of them!”
Murray said on Monday night: “There have been positives and negatives during practice. The injury is healing but is still not perfect. There are certain shots I have not been able to practice yet.
“My goal is to get to the start line in a good place physically and give myself the best chance to do well.”
Norrie arrives at Eastbourne a week ahead of Wimbledon ranked in the highest position he has ever been at this time of the season, having slipped only a couple of places from his career-high placing of No10 achieved earlier this year.
But he experienced a disappointing first-round defeat at Queen’s, going down in straight sets to Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and is therefore fervently hoping to go a bit deeper on the Sussex coast to get much-needed practice in on the grass ahead of Wimbledon, where an expectant home crowd will be praying he can make some waves.
And Norrie also backed Wimbledon’s recent announcement to allow players to play on Center Court prior to the event to get used to the surface after incidents of those competing slipping last year – including notably Serena Williams.
He added: “The result at Queen’s was disappointing although I think I played great, there were just a couple of points in it and my level was right there. I have had a good week’s preparation for Eastbourne, but it would be nice to get a couple more matches ahead of Wimbledon. I feel good and enjoy playing here.
“It’s tricky to get it right. I won in Lyon and peaked on the clay before the French Open and physically felt great. Sometimes playing the weak before can leave you not fresh, but that wasn’t the case in Paris.
“After losing against Grigor I haven’t stopped practicing and have had just one day off, using the facilities and courts at Queen’s which was good fun. I am looking forward to getting going. I am only just hearing about the ruling on getting on Center Court before hand.
“It can be tough on grass when it has not been played on too much, so this can be good as long as the court can be well maintained in the latter stages of quarters, semis and finals. So if the court can handle that with play being allowed on it a little bit earlier I don’t think it will make much difference and be better for the players’ safety.
“For me I will practice on any court, I am not too fussy with that. If I am on those courts great, if not it’s all the same. Being British No1 I will probably get put on a bigger court in the first couple of rounds, so hitting up on a couple of the stadium courts could be good.”