Andy Murray wins 1,000th career match to start final Queen’s Club bow in high spirits

Five-time Queen’s winner Murray beat Alexei Popyrin in three sets for his first tour-level win since March

Kieran Jackson
at Queen’s Club
Tuesday 18 June 2024 21:13 BST
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Andy Murray Match Point Won vs A Popyrin London June 18 2024 1x1

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Was it relief? Or was it simply pure joy? Whatever it was, Andy Murray’s reaction to a first tour victory since March was one of those trademark roars towards his box, a huge rush of adrenaline at a sensation he has not experienced much in 2024: winning.

Not one to keep an eye on his own facts and stats as his career draws to an anticipated close this summer, his mum Judy told him pre-match that this was his 1,000th match on tour and the five-time champion at Queen’s raised his level for the occasion and for the adoring British crowd. He beat Aussie qualifier Alexei Popyrin – ranked 81 places above him – in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, for a valuable first-round win.

A first victory at tour level since the hard courts of Miami in late March, when he injured his ankle, and a first victory since switching racket from Head to Yonex. Even in the twilight of his time in the professional arena, he is keen to discover any means of gaining an edge.

“I’ve not got too many wins this year, it’s been a difficult season,” he said afterwards. “But I came through it… any win you can get is important, that’s why we’re playing. With Wimbledon a few weeks away, I want to build up some confidence and get some matches in my legs, I’m proud of the way I fought.

“I didn’t realise before the match that this was my 1,000 match on tour – a lot of matches, a lot of wear and tear in the body, it’s not easy but pushed through it.”

This was a vintage Murray spectacle, both the type of match and atmosphere, which is why he is desperate not to put a definite end date on his professional career. Nineteen years on from when he made his primetime bow to the British public as an 18-year-old wild card at Queen’s, the 37-year-old has never entered the centre court in west London with as little confidence. One of the greatest returners of his generation, he had not broken serve in his last three ATP Tour matches, including on the grass of Stuttgart last week.

Yet here, to the relief no doubt of a full player box by the side of the court, he was gifted the first break of the match by big-hitting Popyrin, who waywardly double-faulted at 4-3. Murray duly held, and claimed the first set.

But this is a Murray match. And Murray matches, particularly with the aura of yesteryear long since departed, are rarely straightforward. Popyrin, revitalised following a lengthy toilet break, broke immediately and found his range on serve consistently. Murray was powerless on this occasion and the match quickly progressed to a deciding set.

Andy Murray won his first tour-level match since March with a first-round win at Queen’s on Tuesday
Andy Murray won his first tour-level match since March with a first-round win at Queen’s on Tuesday (Getty Images for LTA)
The five-time Queen’s winner beat Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin
The five-time Queen’s winner beat Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin (Getty)

This time though, with the 10,000-capacity crowd willing him on amid the gloomy surroundings of an overcast West Kensington day, Murray would have his moment of triumph. A tumultuous second game of the set is what decided it. A spurred-on Murray, blood boiling after a contentious call from umpire Mohamed Lahyani, outlasted his inexperienced opponent in the key moments and broke serve.

A few hairy moments then arrived but, in a manner we’ve seen regularly over the last two decades, he squeezed through. A deft backhand drop-volley sealed it and he quickly went over to slap the hands of his support box, who’ve been with him through thick and thin over the years. He will face another Australian, Jordan Thompson, in round two on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Dan Evans, the man who was set to partner Murray in the doubles here and at the Paris Olympics, was forced to retire with his match against Brandon Nakashima tied at one set all following a heavy fall at the back of Court 1. His participation at Wimbledon in just under two weeks is now in serious doubt, and the Brit said he was “heartbroken” by the injury to his right knee, with a scan over the next 48 hours set to decide his next steps. He has already withdrawn from the doubles here.

While Evans had a day of disastrous proportions, home wild card Billy Harris enjoyed the biggest win of his career as the world No 162 beat Tomas Martin Etcheverry, ranked 130 places higher, in three sets.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, defending champion Carlos Alcaraz overcame unseeded Argentine player Francisco Cerundolo in straight sets, just nine days after his French Open triumph at Roland Garros. He will face new British No 1 Jack Draper in an intriguing round two encounter after the 22-year-old – fresh from his first career title in Stuttgart last week – beat the fading light to defeat Mariano Navone 6-3, 6-2.

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