Andy Murray's comeback match against Roger Federer was 'very encouraging' says Leon Smith

Simon Briggs
Britain's Davis Cup captain Leon Smith with Andy Murray last year - Getty Images Sport

Andy Murray's return to the match court on Tuesday might not have delivered the intensity of a grand-slam contest, what with Roger Federer pulling on a kilt and Murray himself reaching for a tartan cap and wig.

Yet these were only the trappings. Underneath the humour,  there was an unpredictability to Federer's attacks that cannot be simulated in a practice environment.

Reflecting on the show at Glasgow's SSE Hydro, Great Britain's Davis Cup captain Leon Smith argued on Wednesday that this light-hearted exhibition could serve as an important staging post in Murray's recovery from his chronic hip injury.

"It’s still a long way to go before putting yourself through a fully competitive match," said Smith, when asked about Murray's entertaining 6-3, 3-6, 10-6 defeat at Federer's hands.

"But considering where he was eight weeks ago and that there is eight weeks until Australia it is very encouraging.

Roger Federer and Murray meet at the net on Tuesday night

"The good thing now is that he can focus totally on getting ready for that. We have seen him working out in front of a big crowd and even if it was only an exhibition it is still playing versus Roger Federer in front of your home crowd. The whole thing should have sharpened his senses.

"I don’t think Roger was bluffing when he said he was also pleasantly surprised at how well Andy was moving either."

Murray himself was cautious about confirming that he will make his ATP comeback at the Brisbane International in the first week of January, pointing out that setbacks can crop up at any stage of an athlete's rehabilitation process.

Yet he clearly enjoyed being back on court, and after the match he told Eurosport's Annabel Croft that "my hip felt pretty good, not perfect yet but it's heading in the right direction."

Smith did not sound optimistic on Wednesday about the chances of Murray participating in Great Britain's first Davis Cup tie of 2018, which is likely to involve a change of surface from hard court to clay soon after the Australian Open.

Such a switch puts extra stress on the players' bodies. Overall, though, Smith was enthused by the idea of welcoming his best player back to the fold at some point in the next 12 months.

"Andy has obviously had a frustrating year," Smith said, "and we have really missed him in the second half. But after last night there should be a lot of excitement about what he might be able to do next season."

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