July 04, 2019
The frenzied Pimm’s-laced cries of “Come on Andy”. The masses on Murray Mound with hearts in their mouths – and on their sleeves. The boisterous late-night atmosphere under lights. And, after an early wobble, Andy Murray waving to the crowd and pumping his fists in triumph.
Andy Murray back to winning ways at Wimbledon in doubles with Herbert
It has been nearly two years since Britain’s greatest tennis player last graced Wimbledon, hobbling out with a hip injury. And just 175 days since he tearily announced the problem had become so severe he was about to retire.
Yet after all the sporting obituaries here he was again, rattling through all the familiar tunes, only in a different key – playing doubles and not singles.
But the way Murray and his partner, the Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, recovered from a set down to dismantle Marius Copil and Ugo Humbert 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-0 suggested that the Scot could well add to his three grand slams by the end of this fortnight
“I was a little bit nervous at the start but I like to be,” said Murray, who confessed to bringing five pairs of tennis shoes into the locker room just in case of any mishaps. “I like feeling the pressure because it shows that you care. And that match will do us a lot of good.”
With Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios slugging it out in a minor epic on Centre Court, those wanting to watch the early stages of Murray’s latest odyssey had to do so via the red button. It meant that many would have missed his tentative start – something that was entirely understandable given that he and Herbert had never played a competitive set together.
Wires were crossed. Signals misinterpreted. And the pair were broken twice in their opening three service games as they lost the first set.
But it soon became clear that Murray had chosen his partner well. Herbert is a top-40 singles player, with the doubles nous to have won four grand slams, and he began to read his partner’s returns and find ways to compliment his strengths. Once they had broken early in the second set they never looked back. The only sustained block on their march to victory was a 15-minute delay while the new Court No 1 was closed for the first time in a competitive match as darkness descended on SW19.
Andy Murray back to winning ways at Wimbledon in doubles with Herbert
But watching Murray bounding around the court towards the end, it was hard to believe this was the same player who had announced his imminent retirement at an Australian Open press conference due to what he admitted was a “severely damaged right hip”.
Even after the operation, which involved removing the damaged bone and cartilage within his right hip socket and replacing it with a metal shell, few expected him to be back by Wimbledon. Yet he was hitting return winners aplenty, and with those familiar soft hands as smooth as milk at the net.
“I was just playing and enjoying being on the court,” said Murray. “It was brilliant being back. Given the lack of pain, I enjoyed this more than 2017. Every time I am on the court now it is great because I am pain-free and healthy. The fun is back – hopefully my hip will feel good for a while.”
That Murray was enjoying himself was apparent. Normally he never smiles in matches – even when he is playing Davis Cup doubles with his brother Jamie – but he could not stop beaming once he and Herbert had taken control. Even when his partner nearly hit him with a serve in the fifth set Murray laughed. The Frenchman apologised – first with a quick sorry, then by thundering down an ace. “Brilliant,” cried Murray in response.

Murray will also be playing with the 23-times grand slam champion Serena Williams in the mixed doubles, but he does not foresee any problems with the potentially heavy workload. “My back gets a bit stiff playing doubles but I won’t have anything in my hip,” he said, smiling. “Why should I? It’s metal. There’s nothing to hurt there any more, which is good.”
He was also on good form when told that his mum, Judy, had decided to watch his elder brother’s doubles match instead of his own. “Jamie is the number one son,” he joked. “He used to get all the good presents. I kind of got the hand-me-downs always since we were young, so I’m used to that.
“Obviously when the schedule is like that, she can’t watch both,” he added. “She can’t be in two places at once. There’s many times here when she’s been watching Jamie’s doubles, rushed over to watch my singles and vice versa. Maybe they can do my mum and dad a favour and put us on at slightly different times.”
There have already been many alluring narratives at this Wimbledon, but Murray’s Lazarus imitation has the potential to trump them all. To think that when he underwent surgery it was seen as the final throw of the dice to save his career. Increasingly, though, it seems he have may rolled a pair of sixes.
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