London | Murray searches for Mixed partner
Sir Andy Murray’s return to the competitive stage after hip surgery in January began at The Queen’s Club partnering Feliciano Lopez, continuing at Eastbourne with Marcelo Melo ahead of appearing in the Gentlemen’s Doubles with Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
I personally haven't spoken to anyone yet since the other day, Andy Murray
The 32-year old may have been a little rusty at the outset but he soon picked up his game, dispatching both No 1 seeds, Juan Sebastian Cabal & Robert Farah, and then the 3rd seeds, Henri Kontinen & John Peers, at Queen’s to reach the final.
The former British and World No 1 didn’t really know how his hip would stand up to the stress test of a week of competitive tennis but ahead of the final, Murray gave it a resounding thumbs up.
“My back’s a bit stiff,” he said when asked how he was feeling physically.
“You’re sort of getting down low for a lot of balls and you’re always kind of in a crouched-over position in doubles a bit more than when you’re in singles.
“I’m not used to that as much, so my back has been a little bit stiff after some of the matches. My arm is a little bit tired from serving and stuff but my hip has been brilliant so far. I don’t feel anything at all. It’s amazing.”
His performance has sparked the debate on how much better the singles players are at playing doubles than the doubles specialists themselves.
Murray has chosen strong partners, of course, and Herbert won the 2016 Wimbledon title with Nicolas Mahut so lifting the trophy at SW19 is not an impossibility.
In an interview to L’Equipe, Herbert said: “Since I was a kid, I dream to play on the biggest courts in crazy environments.
“Playing with Murray, who is making his comeback, after hip surgery, is enormous.
“He can teach me things, sharing a side of the court with him is an experience I will never forget.
“Everything started in Madrid when Jamie Delgado, the Andy coach, came to see me saying that Andy was thinking to comeback for the doubles, but he did not know what to expect. He had thought about me.
“After the French Open finished, my coach remembered me to ask him. And at that moment, I told myself that even if I had not planned to play doubles, there was no problem and that it would have been an unbelievable experience in my career and so I said yes.”
Now Murray is looking for a mixed doubles partner at Wimbledon and set his sights on French Champion Ash Barty, but was turned down.
Barty is a contender for the singles title having lifted her maiden Grand Slam Paris and is playing in the women’s doubles, where she is also a major winner, with Victoria Azarenka.
“When Andy texted me asking me to play, I was a little bit shocked, to be honest,” she said.
“Obviously I would have loved to have grabbed the opportunity to play with Andy, and I think it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make as to whether I’m playing an event or not.
“I took some time to think about it, and playing three events is just a little bit too much. When a champion asks you to play at any stage, I was very flattered and honoured, and I said to him, ‘I think there are some pretty good options out there for you’. I’m sure he’ll find someone.
“It was nice to see him playing yesterday. You can see how much he missed it, how much he loves it. I think the whole world was watching. I don’t think there was a person in the tennis world around the planet that wasn’t happy to see him out there again.”
Once the news was out, the offers started flooding in and Murray has been turning them down, apparently.
Barbora Strycova posted on Instagram: “Hey, Andy Murray. I heard rumours that you got rejected by some of my fellow players a couple of times when finding a partner for mixed doubles in Wimbledon. I swear I wouldn’t do the same mistake as them. So what do you think? :-)”
The Czech, who was the 4th best women’s doubles player in February, reached the Wimbledon mixed doubles quarter-finals in 2004 and won a total of 25 WTA doubles titles in her career.
On hearing about the Brit’s difficulties, Billie Jean King tweeted: “*Checks calendar* Available, and lacing up,” followed by a raising-hand emoji.
Then Kirsten Flipkens, with whom Murray played Wimbledon in 2006, put her candidacy forward, alongside Coco Vandeweghe and Casey Dellacqua, who added they could come back from injury and retirement for the occasion, while Naomi Broady, who would ‘ditch her own flesh and blood AKA Liam Broady [her brother]’ to play with the Brit.
The latest to throw her hat in the ring apparently is Maria Sharapova, but Murray has played down the chance of them playing mixed together at Wimbledon and confirmed no official approach has been made.
“I mean, I haven’t given it lots of thought, really,” Murray said.
“She’s obviously done some – I think she maybe won mixed at US Open once? Did she? I don’t know. Did she not win it? No, she didn’t?
“I think we played once together in the IPTL before, and I don’t remember us playing particularly well together.”
Murray and Sharapova traded words two years ago when the Russian was slapped with a 15-month ban for doping.
The former world No 1 was asked if her controversial past could play a part in his decision process.
“I mean, possibly,” he replied. “But like I say, I haven’t given it – I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought.
Murray is expecting to formally name a female partner next week.
“I personally haven’t spoken to anyone yet since the other day,” he said.
“I probably in the next, I guess probably by beginning to middle of next week I’ll – we chatted briefly about it this morning with the guys, because my coach had a few, you know, messages from players, and then, you know, a few people have said stuff online, but I haven’t actually spoken to anyone since.”
It doesn’t seem likely that Murray will team up with Johanna Konta either having been asked by the press whether she ‘had offered her services’..
“I mean, way to make me sound like a hooker. I mean ‘offer my services.’ Jeez,” Konta said in the Metro. “I haven’t watched Andy [play this week], I’ve seen some highlights on social media and I have seen how excited he is to be on court, which I think is just brilliant to see.
“He hasn’t asked me to play mixed so I haven’t given it any thought.
“I have since found out he has got some no’s from some players and I just assume those players have said no because they are focusing on different things in the tournament.”
When pressed to be more direct about the chances of her teaming up with Murray, Konta said: “I would have to think about it and talk to my coaches.
“I honestly haven’t thought about playing mixed there so I don’t know.”