Andrew Castle and Annabel Croft are backing Andy Murray to make it back to the top of the game when he returns to singles action, as the BBC commentary duo spoke exclusively to Tennis365 at Wimbledon.
Murray went out of the Mixed doubles event alongside his partner Serena Williams on Wednesday, but his appearance at Wimbledon and in warm-up tournaments at Queen’s Club and Eastbourne have fueled hopes that the former world No.1 could make a successful return to the court after hip surgery in January.
Speaking to Tennis365 on the media balcony at Wimbledon, Castle offered an upbeat view of a comeback many feared we would never see after Murray appeared to wave farewell to tennis at the Australian Open in January.
“The Andy Murray story has been compelling in recent weeks because none of us expected to see him at Wimbledon this year until a few weeks ago and I think he is going to join these guys at the top of the game once again when he gets himself fully fit,” Castle told us.
“I have been watching him practice and then had a chance to watch a lot of his doubles matches and there is no doubt in my mind that he has a real chance to get back to the top of the game and to be a part of the story at the back end of Grand Slam events again.
“The question at this stage of a career and after you have had a big injury is do you still want it enough and those of us who have watched him playing over the last few weeks can confirm that he wants it big style.
“He has two children at home now and his career has been ripped away from him. Maybe he is coming back now with a slightly different attitude and that could be good for him. Hopefully, he can now relax and enjoy this extra phase of his career now.
“The orthopedic industry is looking at him as a wonderful example of the progress that has been made in that world. Often rebuilt hips are are people who are 65-year-old and not playing sport at this level, but monitoring Andy and seeing how he responds has been most interesting for that profession. I had the same operation and it is amazing what they can do now. Your life changes after that surgery because the pain is instantly taken away and I know how Andy feels. It’s liberating.
“With that in mind, I’d expect to see him back on the singles court at the back end of this year and it would be great for sport to have a new surge of interest and especially for us in the UK.”
Former British No.1 Croft is also encouraged by what she sees from Murray, as she warns against rushing his return to singles.
“I think that test at Queen’s gave him a hint of where his body was at and now we have seen him play a few more matches at Wimbledon and it’s all a question of finding out where he is,” said Annabel.
“He is building towards where we all hope he can get to and not rush things, as he doesn’t want to set himself back by trying to get on court too quickly in singles. What we can say is there are big signs there that he can come back and do well. I have never seen him so happy and relaxed on court and the fans seem to be responding to him like never before, which is great to see.”
Castle has narrated on Murray’s greatest moments in his role as the BBC’s lead tennis commentator and he reflects that the two biggest ovations he has experienced were reserved for the Scot.
“The biggest single roars I have ever heard on Centre Court came during Andy Murray matches,” he adds.
“That ace he hit to win the 2012 Olympic Gold medal against Roger Federer produced an incredible reaction. I remember turning to Tim Henman next to me and we both looked at each other and said that was a special noise.
“Then the year he won Wimbledon for the first time was another special day on Centre Court. He has given us so many wonderful memories already and hopefully, there are still some more to come.”
Wimbledon will be across BBC TV, radio, and online through to the Men’s final on Sunday.
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