Wimbledon 2022: Murray still fighting in battle with relentless ticking of the clock

Normal service was resumed at Wimbledon as Andy Murray raged into the fading light against the relentless passage of time.

The two-time champion may no longer be the headline act for the home fans but while Emma Raducanu may now hold the nation’s attention, Murray still has their hearts.

At 35 with a dodgy hip, Murray’s days of going deep into this tournament, when the pristine green courts are turned brown by sun and wear, are surely over.

However, on his day SW19 is still his postcode but to make the business end at Wimbledon you need seven very good days and surely those mathematics are improbable.

And this 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 first round win over James Duckworth should also be put into context. Since cracking the world’s top 50 at the start of this season the Australian has not won a match on the ATP Tour.

He arrived on the comeback from yet another surgery – his ninth in ten seasons – and the 30-year-old has had work done on everything from his foot to his shoulder to his elbow. 

Murray can surely empathise, winning a race against time to recover from an abdominal strain to line up for the 14th time here.

He looked rusty in the first set but took control of the three that followed, even throwing in an underarm serve, only the second of his career, as he closed out the win in just under three hours.

“It’s amazing to be back here with a full crowd, it’s an amazing atmosphere,” he said.

“Obviously I’m getting on a bit so I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll get to play on this court, so I want to make the most of every time I get to come out here. Hopefully I’ll get another match on here in a couple of days.

“I thought I did well to rebound after the first set. He started the match well and I didn’t take the chances he gave me. As the match went on my game improved and the match turned.

“There’s always nerves, pressure, butterflies and stress, and it was a longer build-up for me because of the ab injury, so it’s great to get out here and get a win under my belt.”

John McEnroe is never short of a quote this fortnight but few took ‘seriously’ his pre Championships claim that Murray could still be a contender this year, especially with Novak Djokovic lurking for a potential quarter-final date that surely seems a long shot.

Next up for Murray is big-serving American John Isner, who needed five sets to come through against French qualifier Enzo Couacaud.

The pair have played ten times and Murray has never lost, though their last clash was six years ago, a very different time and place for one-time world number one.

Murray has had some epics at Wimbledon down the years, a five-set triumph over Richard Gasquet in 2008 that established his never-say-die attitude and those final wins over Djokovic and Milos Raonic in 2013 and 2016.

This victory over Duckworth was hardly in that league but you could certainly see what it meant to an increasingly reflective Murray, whose career is now as much about savouring each experience as the cold hard metric of the win and loss column.

“I’m in a better place than I was here last year and in terms of pain I’m in a better place than 2017,” added Murray

“I don’t know about a deep run in the tournament, I’ve got a very tricky match next and I’ll need to be on it.

“I’ve played well against John in the past but I’ve never played him on grass. He plays well here and could have made the final a few years ago. 

“I’ll need to return better than I did in the first round but my game is starting to feel better and better and hopefully that continues.”

Murray also defended his underarm serve, a tactic that his good friend Nick Kyrgios has made a trademark in recent years.

“I’ve no issue with players using the underarm serve, if players are returning from further and further behind the baseline to give themselves more time, the underarm serve is a way of countering that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s disrespectful, it’s a legitimate way of serving and tactically it’s a smart play.”

For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA Website

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