Murray feeling ship shape as he prepares for clash with Wawrinka

‘Getting to play against Stan again, it’s brilliant’: Andy Murray feeling ship shape as he prepares for clash with old rival Wawrinka at French Open

    Not even the status of Wimbledon champion and knight of the realm has been enough to save Andy Murray from delays involving Covid tests.

    As he prepares to make what once seemed an unlikely comeback to playing on clay at the French Open, he revealed that his preparations were hampered by an unexpected wait for results.

    With his elite athlete certificate all he needed was a negative test to resume normal life after returning from the US Open. But his plans to get an injury from New York quickly assessed were put on hold.

    Andy Murray was forced to warm up outside his practice court due to rain on Friday

    ‘There was a bit of an issue with my test and it took five or six days to come back, and I couldn’t leave my house,’ he said on Friday, ahead of his first round meeting with Stan Wawrinka tomorrow.

    ‘It was a little bit tricky. I had a slight niggle after New York. I had tendonitis in my psoas (hip) muscle on the left side. We had to get a test when we got back from New York and I needed a negative before being allowed to leave the house. So I had to adjust my training for five or six days.’

    Happily, the strain from his extraordinary comeback win against Yoshihito Nishioka at Flushing Meadows, which lasted more than four and half hours, has not had a lingering effect.

    An animated Murray jokes with David Goffin’s coach Thomas Johansson at Roland Garros

    ‘Once I started training on the clay, I actually felt pretty good. I have been playing quite well in practice. It’s weird, usually it takes quite a long time to get used to it again, but I’ve felt decent.’

    Murray will once again be defying medical expectation when he takes on Wawrinka in a match that has clearly had memories flooding back already.

    He was the opponent in the 2017 semi-finals at Roland Garros, another five-set marathon which was to herald the start of his hip problems. For so long it looked like that would be the last match he ever played on the brown dirt.

    Murray juggles his racket as his Paris practice is delayed by rain on Friday

    ‘That was a very tough match that match against Stan a few years ago, it was a brutal one,’ he said.

    ‘I knew something was up before the Kei Nishikori match (the quarter-final which preceded it). I didn’t know it was that bad but at the end of the Stan match, in the fifth set, I was struggling to push up on my serve and move to my forehand. And I never felt the same after that match.’

    A month later he limped out of Wimbledon’s second week and into an uncertain future. What has happened since means that everything now takes the form of a bonus.

    Murray pulls on a hoodie to keep warm as his second attempt at practice succumbs to rain

    ‘I need to be realistic, not expect too much from myself, and go out and enjoy playing at the French Open again,’ he said.

    ‘Getting to play against Stan again, it’s brilliant. It would probably have been nicer to play someone different at the beginning, and potentially build my way into the tournament. But if you win against Stan in the first round it can open things up.’

    Meanwhile, London’s O2 Arena will host the Roger Federer-promoted Laver Cup in September 2022, yet it is unclear whether the man who founded the event will play as he will be 41 by then. The tournament, due to take place this year in Boston but postponed for 12 months, features a Ryder Cup-style format played over three days between Team Europe and the Rest of the World. The O2 will host its valedictory ATP World Tour Finals behind closed doors in November, before it moves to Turin.

    Murray faces old rival Wawrinka in the first round at the French Open on Sunday

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