If you wanted an ideal set of circumstances to maximize the impact of favorite Brit Andy Murray’s return to tennis after nearly a year, you couldn’t have asked for better.
The 31-year-old playing at home in London, on grass, before a packed house at Queen’s Club nearly unanimously on his side.
And he also was playing Nick Kyrgios.
Murray had never lost to Kyrgios, with whom he has a very congenial rookie-veteran relationship. And very nearly defeated him again.
In the end, the 23-year-old Aussie prevailed 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5.
“I thought I did okay. I certainly could have done some stuff better, at the beginning of the second set I thought my level at times was good; sometimes not so good,” Murray told the media after the match.
“I’m really happy that I got on the match court today and played. It was a close decision. I have not been practising loads at all … I really haven’t played a whole lot of tennis, so I’m happy I got out there and competed and performed respectably.”
Murray’s double fault was an anticlimactic ending to a match that had far more drama than you might have expected, on some unexpected levels.
A whole lotta chuntering
Both players were in peak form in terms of the regular exchanges with their supporters. The Brits have a perfect word for this: chuntering.
There was a whole lot of chuntering, with Kyrgios making clear that whatever was ailing him, it hurt and that he was unclear on quite what to do.
He was waging his own internal battle in addition to dealing with a hip issue.
Kyrgios was trying to beat Murray for the first time in his career. He was wrestling with the possibility of losing to a player who was playing his first match in forever.
Or perhaps with not wanting to show up a player he has a lot of respect for, had Murray’s form not been up to it.
And perhaps he was going back on forth on how his body might hold up even if he did win. To defeat Murray, then withdraw before the next match would be unfortunate for both.
“It was strange because on big points, when I won them, I almost felt bad if I showed any emotion. Like I didn’t really want to get into his grill at all,” Kyrgios said. “But the whole time, it was kind of good to see him back out there, but it was a very awkward match for me because I was thinking the guy hadn’t played a match in a year, and I was getting smoked in the first set. I was, like, this is not going to be a good look if I lose this match.”
Kyrgios has doubles on the docket with his Davis Cup captain, the “retired” Lleyton Hewitt, this week.
My hip’s worse than your hip
It was Kyrgios who looked the worse for wear out on the court. It was Kyrgios who limped off after the victory.
“Two-all in the first set, I split-stepped and my hip kind of pinched a little bit and I was dealing with a little bit of pain for the whole match as ridiculous as that sounds because the guy was out from a hip injury (surgery),” Kyrgios said.
As for Murray? Well, he grabbed his back a few times – a common occurrence for any player getting his body used to the low-bouncing grass.
He actually looked pretty good. But the big test, after a match lasting two hours, 40 minutes, will be how he feels Wednesday morning.
He told the media afterwards that he was uncertain about his next move.
‘I won’t rule anything out just now. I won’t rule out playing Eastbourne and not playing Wimbledon. And I wouldn’t rule out not playing a tournament next week and trying to get matches like in an exhibition tournament, as well, to get ready for Wimbledon,” he said. “‘I’ll kind of need to wait and see what happens the next few days and chat with my team about that, because I don’t know exactly what’s best for me just now.”
Had Murray won, he would have faced a juicy (and too premature) matchup against the current British No. 1, Kyle Edmund.
Instead, it will be Kyrgios against Edmund in a clash of old junior rivals just three months apart in age, and four spots apart in the ATP Tour rankings.
(Screenshots from TennisTV)