Andy Murray said he feels “optimistic” about his future after enjoying a winning return to competitive action at Queen’s Club.
The former world number one and partner Feliciano Lopez beat top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah at the Fever-Tree Championships.
After what he hopes was career-saving hip surgery, three-time grand slam winner Murray is making his tentative comeback in the doubles – which will continue at Wimbledon, with the Scot announcing after Thursday’s match that France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert will be his SW19 partner.
A bumper Centre Court crowd was treated to some vintage Murray as the five-time Queen’s singles champion and his Spanish partner ran out 7-6 (5) 6-3 winners.
Crucially, Murray felt in good shape afterwards, with no pain whatsoever in his hip.
He said: “I learnt quite a bit tonight. I sort of expected to be the worst player on the court, which was probably the case in the first set.
“But then I think I started to play better in the second and started to serve a bit better, see the returns a little bit better and things.
“I have zero discomfort in my hip, like, nothing. And if I had done this last year, you know, I’d be here aching, throbbing, and feel bad the next day.
“So I’ll just keep pushing and see how it goes. But I feel optimistic about the future. I don’t know how long it will take to get to that level, but, you know, hopefully not too long.”
After all the tearful goodbyes in January, it was if Murray had never been away and the Colombian duo did not know what had hit them.
Clearly they are a slick doubles partnership, but they could never have imagined facing three-time grand slam winner Murray and Lopez, himself a singles winner at Queen’s, in the first round.
It had only been 143 days since Murray, fearing being forced into retirement, underwent the hip resurfacing surgery.
He and Lopez had never played together, and had barely trained together. Moreover, Murray had not swung a racket in anger in five months.
The fact that Lopez had been compelled to issue a fierce denial of links to allegations of match-fixing in Spain a day earlier was not ideal preparation either.
But somehow they clicked and at the end of a first set that went with serve, a ferocious Murray forehand clipped the net tape on its way past Cabal and clinched the tie-break.
This was no Wimbledon singles epic, but it was no exhibition either. Murray wanted to win and the familiar fist pump was on display following a succession of winners in the second set.
Now pain-free, Murray was moving fine, serving well and volleying like a doubles specialist and the fledgling partnership wrapped up victory in an hour and 14 minutes.
Murray and Herbert will compete in men’s doubles at Wimbledon next month and the former is keen to enter the mixed doubles as well, but has yet to find a partner.
“I would like to, yeah,” he said. “I have spoken to a couple of players but I’ve been rejected a couple of times so far.”
Elsewhere at Queen’s, British number one Kyle Edmund’s hopes were ended by top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was 6-3 3-3 up when rain stopped play on Wednesday night.
Tsitsipas took the second set 7-5 and then beat France’s Jeremy Chardy in three to reach the quarter-finals.
Defending champion Marin Cilic and second seed Kevin Anderson were surprise second-round casualties.
Out-of-sorts Croatian Cilic lost in straight sets to Queen’s Club debutant Diego Schwartzman and last year’s Wimbledon runner-up Anderson, back after a spell out injured, was beaten 6-1 4-6 6-4 by Gilles Simon.