By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) -Andy Murray has overcome career-threatening hip surgery to give himself a shot at completing a hat-trick of Olympic tennis titles, but the Briton will have to hit the ground running in Tokyo after being given a tough first-round draw on Thursday.
Murray's limited court time over the last year has seen him drop out of the top 100 and left him unseeded at his fourth Olympics. The result is a pairing with Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 20-year-old world number 15, who beat the Scot in straight sets at the US Open last year and reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon two weeks ago.
Murray, 34, also showed signs of his improving form at Wimbledon, reaching the third round after winning two consecutive Grand Slam matches for the first time in four years.
Still fighting back to fitness after a second hip surgery, he could certainly have done with an easier start, but he is determined to give his all for an Olympic tennis tournament that may not float every professional's boat but holds a special place in the Scot's heart.
In what he has described as the biggest win of his career, Murray famously beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2012 - paving the way for his maiden Grand Slam triumph at the US Open later in the year and then victory back at Wimbledon in 2013.
He then won a second Olympic gold when he overcame Juan Martin del Potro in a classic final in Rio, more than making up for his shock first round defeat on his Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008.
Asked by reporters on Thursday where a third gold would rank in his stellar career, Murray said: "That would be my biggest win probably with everything that's gone on the last few years.
"It's going to be incredibly difficult. I've got a tough first match and also the doubles (with Joe Salisbury) we play the second seeds from France. So it's not going to be easy but I feel like I've prepared well. I've obviously experienced a few Olympics before so I'm hoping that will help, and in these conditions it's not easy for any of the players."
Murray said he was really enjoying being part of the British team after so long slogging it out in his solitary tennis life.
"I love being part of a team," he said. "Growing up, playing team sports I really enjoyed that. I just happened to be good at an individual one, and it's something that I've missed. When I competed in the Davis Cup and the Olympics, I felt at home, playing my best tennis. It just means something a little bit more.
"It's the biggest sports event in the world and yeah, I still love playing. So that's why I'm here."
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, Editing by Hugh Lawson)