Andy Murray found life back on the big stage much to his liking as he and Pierre-Hugues Herbert tasted victory in the first round of the men’s doubles at Wimbledon.
Five months after the former world number one underwent hip surgery and wondered if he would ever play professional tennis again, Murray and his French partner defeated Ugo Humbert and Marius Copil 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-0.
Having started slowly in their first match as a pair, Murray and Herbert improved rapidly and showed enough over the final three sets to indicate they could go a long way in this tournament.
But that is not Murray’s primary concern, with the Scot saying: “I was just playing and enjoying being on the court. It was obviously brilliant to be back. Really nice atmosphere towards the end of the match.
“Every time I’m on the court now, it’s great. I’m just playing tennis again. Pain-free, healthy. It’s what I have enjoyed doing since I was a kid. At times over the last few years, I was not getting any enjoyment out of it. The fun is back. Hopefully my hip will feel good for a while.”
Murray took to Court One with Herbert for the final match of the day, which finished under the roof, and he could return to Centre Court on Friday when he and Serena Williams make their debut as the sport’s highest-profile mixed doubles couple.
Murray had to cede centre stage on Thursday to the sporting theatre taking place between Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios but he and Herbert gave the crowd plenty to enjoy and the atmosphere for the final set under the roof was joyous.
“It’s obviously really, really cool to be back playing again, playing in those sorts of matches,” said Murray. “It was fun playing with Pierre. Playing with Serena, the atmosphere should be great, too. I’m looking forward to the rest of the tournament.”
Herbert is a top-class doubles player and has won all four grand-slam titles with his regular partner Nicolas Mahut, who was rather miffed to see his fellow Frenchman pop up with Murray after saying he was taking a break to focus on singles.
On paper, it was a strong partnership, but there were concerns over a thigh problem for Herbert while Murray, who won the title at Queen’s Club with Feliciano Lopez in his first tournament back, revealed their first practice session together was not a success.
Murray admitted he was nervous in the early stages and it was not until the start of the second set that the pairing began to gel.
The serve of the other Frenchman on the court, 21-year-old Humbert, took a pummelling throughout and by the final set Murray and Herbert were a class above their opponents.
A stiff challenge awaits next in the form of Croatian sixth seeds Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor, but Murray was encouraged.
“I think that match does a lot of good,” he said. “We spent two and a half hours on court with each other. We got better as the match went on. I think that’s the one thing that’s nice about the five-set doubles format is you have time to work things out.”
Murray’s choice of partner in both competitions shows he is not here to make up the numbers, but he will not be losing any sleep if he does not end the fortnight with silverware.
“I’m still very competitive,” he said. “When I go on the match court to compete, I want to win. I prepare properly. I try and do my best.
“It just feels different than what it did before. I don’t know if that will change over time or if it will stay the same. But I don’t have huge expectations. I just want to go out, enjoy the match, give the best effort of what I’ve got.
“Winning is nice, but it’s not the most important thing, which maybe it used to be. Now it’s not, which so far feels nice and just a little bit different, a little bit more relaxing, a little bit more stress-free.”
Williams instigated the partnership with Murray to give her more matches as she works her way back from a knee problem, and she is looking forward to having British support.
“I’m going to be so happy when I go out there, it’s going to be really cool. That’s the real reason I wanted to play with Andy,” she added with a smile.