Andy Murray boosted by competitive Wimbledon practice with Novak Djokovic

Andy Murray boosted by competitive Wimbledon practice with Novak Djokovic

A practice session with his old foe Novak Djokovic showed Andy Murray how far he has come as he prepares for another tilt at Wimbledon.

Ten years after he beat the Serbian to win his first title at the All England Club, Murray took on Djokovic in a training set on Court 14, with many of the army of people putting the final touches to preparations for the tournament crowding round for a glimpse.

The last time Murray remembers practising with his former junior rival before a grand slam was a miserable session at the Australian Open back in 2019, a day before he tearfully laid bare the extent of his hip problems.

This was a very different occasion, and the Scot said: “I did well in the practice. Where I am today in comparison to where I was then is night and day, just from a mental perspective, my enjoyment of the game, and how I’m still able to compete with those guys.

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic practise at Wimbledon
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic practise at Wimbledon (John Walton/PA)

“I didn’t feel like I could really back then. I’m happy to be in that position still. I really enjoyed it. We used to practise together quite a lot actually. It was nice to be back on the court with him again.”

Murray is not yet back at the stage where he could be considered one of the likely challengers to Djokovic for the title.

Despite winning successive events on the second-tier Challenger Tour in Surbiton and Nottingham, he missed out on a seeding for Wimbledon and will go in ranked 39.

He has not been beyond the third round at a grand slam since 2017 but chose to skip the French Open and prioritise grass-court preparations knowing that, if he is going to make the latter stages of a major event again, this is by far the most likely venue.

“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve obviously played lots of matches. Physically I’ve been feeling good. I’m ready to go.

“I want to go out there and perform at a level that I’m happy with. I do feel like I’m in a really, really good position to do that. I have the experience at this tournament. There’s only one player in the draw that has more experience of playing here than me, which is Novak.

Andy Murray, left, with the trophy and Novak Djokovic with the runner-up's plate after the 2013 Wimbledon final
Andy Murray, left, beat Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“I certainly will be one of the only players that’s won against him here (he is the only one), as well. I need to use that to my advantage and use my experience to my advantage and take confidence from that.

“I do believe I’m one of the best grass-court players in the world, and I’m physically feeling really good. I prepared well, so there’s no reason why I can’t have a good tournament.”

Murray has been asked to relive his triumph of 2013 many times over the last few weeks and a bit of nostalgia will be inevitable as he prepares to play in the tournament for the 15th time.

He said: “I come here a lot during the year. Fortunately I’m a member here so I sometimes come to train or go to the gym or whatever.

“I feel very comfortable in these surroundings. I love coming to play the tournament here. When I walk out onto Centre Court to play, obviously I’m very nervous but incredibly excited to get the chance to perform here again on one of, if not the, most special court in our sport.

“I always really look forward to it. A couple days out from the tournament, I feel a bit nervous and stuff, which is always a really positive sign to me when I feel that way. Hopefully that bodes well for the event.”

Murray’s deadpan humour was on show as he was asked about playing a British player in the first round for the first time since his second title run in 2016.

Ryan Peniston
Ryan Peniston is Murray’s first-round opponent (Adam Davy/PA)

“Brilliant,” he said. “Can we start celebrating now?”

On that occasion it was Liam Broady in his way, this time 27-year-old wild card Ryan Peniston.

“I know him pretty well,” said Murray. “We’ve practised together quite a lot. He obviously likes playing on the grass courts. He’s had some good wins on the surface. Lefty, moves very well. I need to be ready for that one.”

The 36-year-old, meanwhile, gave his thoughts on the news the ATP is in talks to forge links with Saudi Arabia, while the WTA is also considering holding tournaments in the country.

Murray has previously turned down the chance to appear in exhibition events in the country and said he would not do so in the future.

“If they become major tournaments on the tour, it becomes a slightly different question, and it’s a difficult one, really, based on how the tour and the rankings and everything work, how important they are to get into other events and stuff,” he said.

“When you start missing them, you obviously get penalised for that. It’s definitely something I would have to think about. Unfortunately it’s the way that a lot of sports seem to be going now.”