For years, a match at The Queen’s Club was another day at the office for five-time singles champion Andy Murray. But on Tuesday, the former World No. 1’s opening victory against Benoit Paire left the 34-year-old fighting tears.
“I love it,” Murray said in his post-match interview in front of the fans. “I love playing tennis.”
More than two years on from his most recent hip surgery, Murray is still battling back to form, currently No. 124 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. But his competitive fire and love for the sport burn brighter than ever.
“I just really want to play. I have not really had the opportunity to do that the past few years. When I have, it’s been pretty fleeting,” Murray said. “[This was the] first singles match I got to play on grass in three years. Not a lot of stuff has happened in that period, as well. It’s not like a whole lot has gone on. I was just happy to be out there playing, doing well.
“There are obviously a lot of doubts as well when you haven’t hardly played. But then, like I kept saying, in the back of my mind and in practice and stuff, I put in so much work and have done so much good stuff. I’m really proud of what my attitude has been like in terms of feeling the various setbacks and everything and [that I have] kept going.”
Murray is at home on grass, where he now holds a 108-21 record. His 83.7 winning percentage on grass is better than his rate on any other surface. But walking onto centre court on Tuesday, the Scot was “really nervous”.
“Once I got out there, I actually felt good. [In] the buildup to it, there are obviously nerves. I was laughing to myself, [I] went to the bathroom like half an hour before the match. [It was] probably like the fourth time I had been in about 45 minutes,” Murray said. “I was just laughing, because I still get nervous obviously before I go out to play. But you have to remind yourself in those moments just to trust yourself, and so I was definitely nervous.”
The 34-year-old has accomplished a lot on the tennis court, climbing to World No. 1, lifting the 2016 Nitto ATP Finals trophy and winning three Grand Slam titles. But as he struggled with his hip and has battled back to try to compete consistently on the ATP Tour, Murray realised how much he loves this sport, and not just winning matches.
“You do a lot of reflecting and stuff during times like that,” Murray said. “I always got quite stressed out before these times of year. I was very focused on my tennis and stuff. I just wish I had appreciated the small moments, like walking back on the grass court for the first time off the back of the clay season, just enjoying those moments. Then celebrating wins and enjoying them more than probably what I did.
“I think when you’re playing top-level tennis, it is difficult sometimes to do that, because you’re always on to the next match. If you win a tournament, you’re right on to the next tournament, and Wimbledon is right around the corner. It’s hard, but, I just wish I had enjoyed those moments more.
“That’s why today, for example, I like speaking to my team and speaking to my family. [I] just wanted to go out there and enjoy it and just be myself. I did that. I enjoyed it. I get another opportunity tomorrow. I’m always sort of telling myself, and maybe it’s not the best mindset, but each match could be my last one that I play now. I want to make the most of every match that I play and each tournament that I get the chance to compete in.”