Andy Murray has high expectations for his 2022 grass season.
The Briton opted to skip much of the European clay swing to focus on his preparations for the grass. After opening his campaign at the BOSS OPEN in Stuttgart with a comfortable win over Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell, the former World No. 1 believes he can already feel that decision paying off.
“In comparison to last year, I feel completely different,” said Murray. “Last year I was barely practising in the build-up to Queen’s, and when I was practising I was not moving [well]… I was not feeling good until about four days before Wimbledon, and then I actually felt fine. But my preparation was non-existent.”
Murray found some rhythm on the grass at the Surbiton Trophy in his homeland last week, reaching the semi-finals at the ATP Challenger Tour event. He believes match practice is key as he seeks another deep run this week at the ATP 250 in Stuttgart.
“This year I practised for three weeks on the grass, didn’t really have any physical issues that were stopping me in my preparation. I got a lot of matches last week, and hopefully some more in the next couple of weeks in the build-up to Wimbledon.”
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Even at 35 years of age, Murray’s desire to compete at the top level shows no sign of diminishing. Just as Rafael Nadal, a year his senior, has spoken of his desire to compete despite a chronic foot problem, Murray admits that his own long journey back from hip surgeries in 2018 and 2019 has not always been easy. Yet stepping out on court at the top level makes it all worthwhile for the World No. 68.
“[My motivation] comes from enjoying the sport, loving the sport,” said Murray. “My situation is a bit different to his [Nadal’s], with the operation that I had.
“I believe he is playing to try and break records and win the major events. Absolutely you have to love it and be willing to play through some pain as you become an older athlete, but I think it is easier to play through the pain when you are competing for major titles.
“For me the past four or five years have been very different to that, playing Challengers and my ranking dropped. I feel like our situations are different, but ultimately the reasons I am still playing are because I love the game, and because I still think I can compete right at the highest level.”
Murray has notched some impressive wins in 2022. He defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili and Reilly Opelka en route to the final in Sydney in January, and ousted Dominic Thiem and Denis Shapovalov in the only event he played on clay at the Mutua Madrid Open. The 46-time tour-level titlist believes he can still beat anyone on Tour on his day but admits he has not yet regained the consistency that took him to three Grand Slams and 14 ATP Masters 1000 titles.
“I have not shown that consistently over the past few years, but on one-off results, I have,” said Murray. “I’ve beaten a lot of the top guys in the world since I came back, but not consistently. I’m hoping now that with a period with no injuries and lots of tournaments, I’ll get back to doing that soon.”
With Nadal clinching a record extending 22nd Grand Slam title at Roland Garros on Sunday, Murray is happy to see players of his own generation still pushing for major titles. Murray also remains hopeful of a 26th tour-level meeting with Roger Federer, with the Swiss star set to make his return to the ATP Tour after knee surgery later at September’s Laver Cup.
“I would love to see Roger back playing again,” said Murray. “It’s always difficult to know when the end is.
“Obviously, people have been talking about it for many years. The next generation have come through, [but] the same guys are still winning the Grand Slams and I’d love to see Roger back competing again. I don’t know his situation, but I believe he will get back to competing. I don’t know how long for, but I really hope we can play another tournament together. It’s been a long time.”