His recent performances on court would suggest Andy Murray is some way from securing victory for Britain at Wimbledon this summer. But the 22-year-old Scot's return to a temporarily abandoned off-court match has raised hopes for his game, as it emerged yesterday that he is back with his former girlfriend Kim Sears.
A source close to the British number one described the relationship as "hopeful", five months after Ms Sears moved out of his Surrey home. The split was described as amicable at the time, and no other names have been linked to either since.
Ms Sears, a 22-year-old English undergraduate at Sussex University, became an integral part of what is known as Team Murray, his loyal coterie of supporters, soon after the couple met at the US Open in the summer of 2005. At every subsequent Wimbledon, she has been visible alongside Murray's mother and coach in the family box, and was apparently responsible for overseeing Murray's image makeover from tousled-haired weakling to muscular heart-throb.
But Murray's international life – unavoidable for tennis stars – is understood to have caused tension in their relationship.
News of the couple's separation last November prompted fears for the performance of a player known to depend on the support of close friends and family. Although he reached the Australian Open final earlier this year, his form has subsequently dipped, culminating last week with a humiliating defeat by Mardy Fish, an American ranked outside the world's top 100 players.
After the match, Murray told reporters that he had been mentally very poor in recent weeks, but added, significantly, "I have been very happy off court but not on it."
There were signs that the couple might resume their relationship after they were spotted in a café on Wimbledon common in February, where they allegedly enjoyed a brief kiss over breakfast. Yesterday Murray's spokesman refused to confirm or deny whether the couple were back together, but someone close to the player said they had decided to give it another go. "I wouldn't say they are officially boyfriend and girlfriend but it's looking hopeful," said the source. He added: "I wouldn't rule it out."
Paul Newman, The Independent on Sunday's tennis correspondent, said: "I think she has been a good influence on him. During Wimbledon 2009, which was his best Wimbledon, [he reached the semi-finals], he was living at home with just Kim and his mother. He has done extremely well when she has been around."