By John Delong
Andy Murray has brought high hopes but low expectations to this week’s Winston-Salem Open, as his comeback from hip surgery continues in earnest.
Murray will make his WSO debut on Monday night in a 7 p.m. first-round showdown against Tennys Sandgren on Stadium Court, and for now all he’s concentrating on is winning that match.
The former world No. 1 held a press conference in the new Harold Pollard Center on Sunday afternoon, and he said his biggest desire is to get as many singles matches as he can here this week.
“My expectations are pretty low,” Murray said. “I’m not thinking about winning events like this, I’m just trying to get matches. I’m hoping kinda by the end of the year maybe I’ll get back to where I want to be, but the first few tournaments after such a long period off, I’m just wanting to get some matches and see if my body holds up well. Hopefully with each match I’ll feel better and gain confidence.”
The 32-year-old Murray, a former World No. 1 in 2016 and the owner of three Grand Slam singles titles and 45 ATP World Tour titles, returned to singles action last week at Cincinnati for the first time since the Australian Open. He lost his first-round match to Richard Gasquet, and then quickly made the decision to enter the WSO as a wild card.
He’s the third player in WSO history who has been ranked No. 1, joining Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt.
“We couldn’t be any more excited to get a true champion to come to Winston-Salem,” tournament director Bill Oakes said. “We’ve had two previous number ones come here, and for us a big focus of our tournament this year Murray said he was given glowing recommendations from fellow players about the Wake Forest Tennis Complex, and that made him even more excited to be coming to Winston-Salem. Murray said he liked the notion of playing on a college campus, after training at the University of Miami at times in recent years.
“Everyone I chatted with said it’s a great place to play a tournament,” Murray said. “It’s very convenient, lots of practice courts, and I felt like it was a smart move to play here before I go home. So I’m trying to get more than one match this week. That’s my goal and we’ll see what happens.”
Murray said he is completely committed to singles now, after he played doubles and mixed doubles in the weeks leading up to and after Wimbledon. He and Feliciano Lopez won the title at Queen’s Club in his return to action.
“I think it was when I was in Canada playing doubles there, it hit me that it was time to concentrate on singles,” he said. “I was hoping to play some doubles and practice for my singles, but the timing of my matches was just not allowing that. I had to play doubles at 10:30 one night and that was not allowing me to practice singles the way I wanted to. I thought playing doubles was really beneficial to get me back on the court and so it was really important, but once I started thinking about singles again it was slowing things down a bit. So I’ll just go with singles now.”
He said he is feeling better each week, and definitely sees improvement.
“Movement is the big thing I’m working on,” Murray said. “On the singles court there’s a lot more movement than doubles. You have to be moving backwards and forwards a little more. So I need to get used to that again. If my movement improves then the rest of my game will get better as well. I can say I’m moving a little better now than I was last week.”