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Andy Murray makes thrilling return to grass at Queen’s Club

A five-time champion at Queen’s Club, Andy Murray looked the part on Tuesday as he made his first singles appearance on grass since 2018, and came away with a victory.

Tennis – ATP 500 – Queen’s Club Championships – Queen’s Club, London, Britain – June 15, 2021 Britain’s Andy Murray celebrates after his round of 16 match against France’s Benoit Paire

It has not been the easiest season for 34-year-old Andy Murray. Limited to just three matches in two events since the start of 2021, the three-time Grand Slam champion is hoping that a return to a familiar stomping ground in London can jumpstart his tennis.

So far so good.

Murray delivered an inspiring performance at Queen’s Club – known as the Cinch Championships this year – on Tuesday, easing past lost-at-sea Frenchman Benoit Paire, 6-3, 6-2 to set a second-round date with top-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini.

Lots to like from Murray’s side of the net

Though the result doesn’t jump off the page due to Paire’s dismal 2-16 record in 2021, there were many reasons to like Murray’s performance.

First, he struck a dazzling running forehand winner in the fourth game that brought the crowd to life.

The forehand winner was a clear example of how solid Murray’s movement and timing are on the grass. In the first two days of main draw play many players have had trouble finding their footing on the grass, but here was Murray, racing the length of the baseline to track this ball down.

There were several other moments in the match where Murray demonstrated superior feel and courtcraft on his favorite surface. If there is one surface where he can enjoy a high level of success against elite players, the grass would clearly be it.

Murray improves his career grass court record to 108-21, and 31-8 at Queen’s Club, with his victory.

Hitting the ball really well – Murray

Murray told reporters that he has been feeling comfortable on the grass, in practices.

“I really don’t feel like I need to practice loads, because I have done lots of practicing and I’m hitting the ball really, really well.”

Andy Murray on his grass preparation

Murray broke serve three times on three opportunities, and never faced a break point against Paire.

Nerves a factor as well

He may have looked calm, cool and collected, but he assured reporters that there were plenty of nerves to be dealt with.

“I was really nervous today,” he said. “I felt nervous this morning. I was excited as well. Like I said, there are doubts and stuff obviously before going out there, but pretty much as soon as the first few games we played, the focus becomes less about your body and your hip and more about the match and trying to win and stuff.

“I felt pretty calm on the court, really. Grass is a very natural surface for me. It’s one I feel very comfortable on. Once I got out there, I actually felt good.”

Emotions got the best of Murray

Murray broke down during his post match interview, pausing for several seconds, close to tears, as the crowd roared. It was a moment that showed just how much it means for the Scot to back playing high-level tennis after encountering so many roadblocks in recent years.

After the match Murray told reporters why he was overwhelmed by his emotions.

“I just really want to play,” he said. “I have not really had the opportunity to do that the last few years. You know, when I have, it’s been pretty fleeting.

“Obviously I said before there is obviously a lot of doubts as well like when you haven’t hardly played, but then, you know, like I kept saying, in the back of my mind and in practice and stuff, like I put in so much work and have done so much good stuff, like in practice, you know, I’m really proud of what my attitude has been like in terms of feeling the various setbacks and everything and kept going.

“Yeah, that’s probably what it was. I mean, it’s obviously difficult to put a finger on one thing exactly, but lots of things that went into it.”

Berrettini next – a big challenge

Murray will face hard-serving Berrettini in the second round at Queen’s Club. It was Murray who claimed victory in their only meeting, at Beijing in 2019, 7-6(2), 7-6(7) in the round of 32.

Berrettini isn’t a grass player of Murray’s pedigree, but he has proven to be highly effective on the surface. He improved to 14-5 on the surface in his career with a straight sets win over Stefano Travaglia on Tuesday.

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