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After being eliminated from Queen’s in the second round, Andy Murray admitted that he is still trying to identify the source of his mysterious groin problem. With Wimbledon now little more than a week away, his medical advisors have an urgent puzzle to crack.
Murray’s latest injury does not appear to stem from his metal hip implant. The balance of probability leans towards a tendon issue. All we really know is that the pain flared up suddenly in Miami three months ago and continues to limit his training.
Murray was deeply frustrated on Thursday after his 6-3, 6-3 defeat at the hands of Matteo Berrettini, the Italian No1. Berrettini is the sort of big-hitting opponent he has toppled dozens of time on grass courts over the years, by subtly picking away at their technical flaws. On this occasion, though, he was unable to execute the shots he wanted. And the explanation lay in his lack of preparation, which had been limited to just two practice sets before the tournament started.
“It’s not easy going out there and competing when you have not played loads in the last three years,” said Murray afterwards. “It's my second grass-court match since 2018. I played two practice sets in the build-up to the tournament, and I'm playing a guy who is serving 140mph. It’s tough.”
That siege gun of a serve proved to be the decisive factor. In his heyday, Murray would have leapt like a goalkeeper and parried a high percentage of balls back into play. But then, in his heyday, he wasn’t carrying a metal hip.
The old sharpness isn’t quite there for Murray just now. Still, after his gloomy prognosis on the eve of the tournament, this was actually a respectable effort. Having beaten Benoit Paire in Tuesday’s opening match, he was competitive against Berrettini – the world No9 who is the top seed at Queen’s this week.
In the interview room, Murray was typically forensic about his strengths and weaknesses at Queen’s this week. In the former camp, we can place his movement. “The numbers from the first match we got, in terms of the speeds I was moving at on the court, we were happy with that as a team.”
His difficulties lay more in timing and shot selection. “I feel like I genuinely have been hitting the ball well in practice,” he said, “but then like today when you're under a bit more pressure and you're having to make very split-second decisions, it's difficult to prepare for that.”
Deciding how to approach the remaining ten days before the start of Wimbledon will be a real head-scratcher. Murray knows that he needs matches, but he didn’t sound enthusiastic about entering Eastbourne next week – and one reason clearly lies in the restrictive bubble environment for all these grass-court events. His intention instead is to play as many informal matches with the top players as possible on Wimbledon’s practice courts, even if he admitted that “with the thought that I need to manage the groin a little bit as well, it's [going to be] tricky.”
As for what medical treatment to seek, that is another awkward conundrum. “If you have a tendon injury,” he said, “you need to load it to get it to adapt. But you can't load it many days in a row, because you can flare it up. If it’s something else, it becomes more about managing the discomfort.”
Earlier, Dan Evans had overcome France’s Adrian Mannarino in two tight sets to earn a quarter-final against Berrettini. It will be interesting to see whether Evans, who has played 27 matches this season to Murray’s ten, can find an antidote to Berrettini’s venomous serve. In any case, he was the third home hope to reach the quarter-finals, which is the best return for the British contingent at any ATP event since Nottingham in 1996. Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie are due to play each other on Friday, though the forecast is inclement.
Meanwhile Johanna Konta has pulled out of next week’s event in Eastbourne to protect her problematic right knee. Konta won the Viking Nottingham Open last weekend, thus becoming the first Briton to land a WTA title on home soil since Sue Barker in 1981.