Friday’s Wimbledon draw was every bit as favourable to Andy Murray as he could have hoped, but the world No 1 is likely to be more concerned by his fitness than by the prospect of the opponents he might face when competition begins here on Monday.
Murray had not been on court since Tuesday because of a hip injury which had forced him out of two exhibition matches this week, but he came through three rigorous practice sessions here today, even if there were times when he looked to be in some discomfort.
The last of the practice sessions was held at Aorangi Park on Court 15, which is about as far away from Centre Court as you can get at the All England Club. Murray spent most of the session hitting with Aidan McHugh, a 16-year-old Glaswegian who is coached by Toby Smith, brother of the British Davis Cup captain, Leon Smith. Ivan Lendl and Jamie Delgado, Murray’s two coaches, were present, as were Matt Little, his physical trainer, and Shane Annun, his physio.
Although Murray was hitting the ball well enough at times, the Scot was clearly limping when he walked and during breaks he took the opportunity to take the weight off his legs. As he left the court he said the practice session had been good and that he was “OK”.
While there is no suggestion at this stage that he will pull out of the tournament, Murray’s fitness must be a concern with the start of the tournament only three days away.
At least the draw did him some favours. He is in the opposite half to Roger Federer, who was practising today with the Czech Jiri Vesely, and does not appear to have any significant banana skins in his path in the early stages.
If the seedings go to plan Murray would meet Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals, Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals and Novak Djokovic in the final. However Murray is far too experienced a campaigner to be thinking that far ahead, particularly given the current concerns over his fitness.
Instead Murray will focus on his opening match on Monday afternoon against Alexander Bublik, a 20-year-old Russian who came through the qualifying tournament. The world No 134 made his Grand Slam debut at this year’s Australian Open, where he beat France’s Lucas Pouille in the first round before losing to Malek Jaziri.
In the second round Murray would meet either Portugal’s Joao Sousa or Germany’s Dustin Brown, who knocked out Rafael Nadal two years ago, and in the third he is seeded to meet Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
While Brown is an explosive big hitter who can sometimes trouble the best, Murray’s first major challenge would be more likely to come in the fourth round against Pouille or Australia’s Nick Kyrgios. Pouille, aged 23, and Kyrgios, aged 22, are two of the game’s most exciting young talents, though neither man has beaten Murray.
Wawrinka, Murray’s potential quarter-final opponent, beat him in the semi-finals of the French Open earlier this month. The Swiss needs the Wimbledon title to complete his Grand Slam collection but has rarely performed at his best on grass.
Nadal, who meets Australia’s John Millman in the first round, has won the Wimbledon title twice and been runner-up on three occasions but has gone out early on his last four appearances at the All England Club.
The Spaniard has not played in any warm-up tournaments and said after his French Open victory last month that his troublesome knees were always his major worry on grass.
Karen Khachanov, a big-hitting Russian, is a potential threat to Nadal in the third round, with one of two big servers, Ivo Karlovic and Gilles Muller, likely to lie await in the fourth.
Djokovic and Federer are seeded to meet in the semi-finals in the other half of the draw. Djokovic has a tricky opening match against Slovakia’s Martin Klizan, who pushed Murray hard in the French Open last month. He could meet Juan Martin del Potro in the third round and Dominic Thiem, his conqueror at Roland Garros, in the quarter-finals.
Federer also has a testing opener, against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov. Mischa Zverev, who beat Murray at the Australian Open, is a potential third-round opponent. Thereafter Federer could meet Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round and Milos Raonic, last year’s runner-up, in the quarter-finals.
Two Britons, Aljaz Bedene and Cameron Norrie, both face big hitters in the first round. Bedene will meet Karlovic, who has one of the biggest serves in the game, and Norrie will take on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
James Ward, who is trying to rebuild his ranking after a lengthy absence with a knee injury, faces Marcos Baghdatis, who loves playing on grass, while Brydan Klein takes on Japan’s Yuichi Sugita.
Kyle Edmund will take on Alex Ward in an all-British first-round encounter. Ward came through qualifying after beating another Briton, Marcus Willis, in the final round yesterday.
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