WASHINGTON, July 29, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
Former World No. 1 Andy Murray has chosen the Citi Open, which begins this week in Washington, D.C., as his springboard for returning to competition following hip surgery. The injury has effectively sidelined the three-time Grand Slam champion since January. Now, by returning to play in this annual ATP 500 level hard-court event, which features a 48-player main draw that includes seven of the world’s current Top 20 players – led by defending champion Alexander Zverev (No. 3) – the unseeded Murray will face a variety of challenging conditions beginning Monday when he faces Mackenzie McDonald, ranked 77th, in the first round.
It will be hot and humid, which is typical Washington summer weather – and it may rain, too – but the 31-year-old Murray wouldn’t have any other way. He just wants to stay healthy and play again. In McDonald, 23, he’ll face an up-and-coming American who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon earlier this month. If he wins, Murray would play fourth-seeded Kyle Edmund, who defeated Murray in his most recent match at Eastbourne in June.
Returning to competition
“I’ve only played three matches in the past year, so I’m just trying to get back on the match court as much as I can and see how I’m feeling after playing two, three, four, five matches in a week,” said Murray on Saturday afternoon during his pre-Citi Open press conference at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, site of the tournament. “It takes time after you’ve been out for a long period to get match sharpness back.”
Indeed, Murray simply wants to compete. After going 11 consecutive seasons, from 2006 through 2016, with at least 40 tour-level victories, he’s only played three matches in more than 13 months. Because of his inactivity, Murray’s ranking has dropped to a career-low No. 839. He needed a wild card to gain entry into the Citi Open main draw. Yet, he doesn’t seem worried by it at all. Instead, he remarked, “I want to stay healthy through the end of the year. I think if I do that, then I’ll start to win more matches, my ranking will move up. If I only play one or two tournaments and then take a break for a month, it’s just difficult to get into that routine.
“If I stay fit and healthy, I’m not so worried so much about ranking. I want to be winning matches and competing against the best players and that will build my fitness up quicker than anything I could do in the gym. So, that’s my goal between now and the end of the year and hopefully it’ll mean I’ll be ready to start the 2019 season really well.”
Murray fielded a variety of questions from the media, including why he likes playing the Citi Open, his thoughts on playing best-of-five set matches, and what it was like spending time as a broadcaster for the BBC at Wimbledon.
On playing the Citi Open: “I’ve enjoyed coming here. It’s a beautiful city. There’s a lot to do and see. The event itself has got great history.” (Murray was a finalist in his Washington debut in 2006.)
“I like the conditions here. It sets you up well for the rest of the U.S. summer.”
On five-set tennis matches: “I’ve always liked playing five-set tennis matches. As a player, I like five sets, but for others, I know it might be too long. I can appreciate that.”
On spending a day as a broadcaster for the BBC at this year’s Wimbledon: “I had a lot of fun doing it. I enjoyed it, but it’s difficult watching and talking about a five-hour match. I’d rather coach than get into broadcasting.”