Both Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are looking for valuable match wins as they attempt to climb back up the rankings after serious injuries that required surgery and saw them miss the second half of 2017. For Murray it was a hip problem, one that kept him out for 342 days with the Scot making his return at Queen’s Club last week where he lost first round to Kyrgios despite a valiant effort. Wawrinka made his return to the Tour in January, but it has been stop-start to say the least.
When they accepted wildcards to the ATP 250 event in Eastbourne it is hard to imagine that either would have relished a first round match with the other, but that is exactly what happened. Though perhaps the most anticipated clash of the day it ultimately proved a rather disappointing affair as a match. Murray claimed his first win of the season with exceeding comfort, running out a 6-1 6-3 winner. But what did it reveal about the state of play for both men.
Murray is Wimbledon ready
The chances of a third Murray victory at Wimbledon this year are vanishingly slim. With Roger Federer still surely the man to beat in spite of his shock loss to Coric in the Halle final and Novak Djokovic, who has the second most Wimbledon titles of any active player on the men’s Tour, coming back into form, there will be familiar obstacles in Murray’s path. Obstacles he has only managed to overcome rarely even when playing at his very best.
That’s without mentioning Marin Cilic, who downed Djokovic in three sets in the final at Queen’s and last year made the final at Wimbledon. Had blisters not ended his challenge in that final before it even began he might even have been the man to lift the title at the end of the tournament. And whilst Rafael Nadal, who recently won his seventeenth Slam, and Juan Martin del Potro have not yet begun their grass court seasons, both will surely have a say before the end.
The big serves of Nick Kyrgios and Sam Querrey could also fire their owners to glory and Grigor Dimitrov may well feel he is due another deep run at the Slam he won as a junior in 2008. In short, there is a long list of players with a better chance at lifting the title at the All-England Club than Murray. But, as he has shown in taking a set off Kyrgios and then dismissing Wawrinka, his game is still in good working order.
And when your game is as good as Murray’s, that is surely enough to carry him through a few rounds at Wimbledon, quite possibly into the second week if he gets a favourable draw. He may even get far enough to inspire hope of an improbable triumph amongst the British public. Of course, he could get Federer in the first round, which would probably signal a swift end to his Wimbledon. But, even if he doesn’t draw Federer first round, he will have to face someone of his quality at some point.
And as well as he played against Wawrinka, Murray doesn’t look ready for that kind of challenge. Nor based on the limited evidence so far provided does his body look ready for the physical toll imposed by trying to win seven best-of-five matches in two weeks. After around two hours against Kyrgios, Murray looked to be struggling with the physicality and it’s hard to see him winning a Slam without playing at least one match longer than that. So whilst football might be coming home, Wimbledon won’t be.
Is Wimbledon worth the risk for Wawrinka?
The short answer to the question above is probably no. Wawrinka, unlike his even more illustrious compatriot Federer, is no grass-courter. He has never been past the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, and even that stage he only reached in 2014 and 2015 when he was arguably at the peak of his powers. Aside from those two quarterfinal runs, he has only won two matches at Wimbledon since 2010. In fact, he has only 18 career match wins at Wimbledon, compared with 37 at the Australian Open and 38 at Roland Garros and the US Open, all three of which he has won.
His form coming into his match with Murray was also not hugely impressive, both on the grass and more broadly. He missed much of the clay court season due to a calf problem, returning only for the Italian, Geneva and French Opens. There he lost first round in Rome to Steve Johnson, in his second match in Geneva to Marton Fucsovics and then first round to Guillermo Garcia Lopez in Paris. Fine players, but not men the Wawrinka of old would have lost to on his favourite surface.
A 6-2 6-3 dismantling of Cameron Norrie at Queen’s in the first round was doubtless welcome, but there are few players less experienced than Norrie on the grass. In the second round he played passably well in a 5-7 7-6 1-6 defeat at the hands of Sam Querrey, but though the American reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last year he is hardly a man in form. Murray’s victory in their Eastbourne clash was thus not a huge surprise, although it was perhaps more routine than expected.
For Wawrinka then, playing Wimbledon seems verging on pointless. The Swiss was audibly complaining about his struggle to move properly at Eastbourne and with the leg problems he has been having over the past year, the risk of sustaining another injury at Wimbledon seems fairly substantial. Certainly more so than the rewards of the likely early exit that awaits him in SW19. Better surely to wait for the hard courts of North America where he won a Slam less than two years ago.
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