Wimbledon 2022: Andy Murray fights off James Duckworth under Center Court lights

It was another night on Center Court where Andy Murray played all the hits, and even had room for a new trick. In what may appear to be a fairly straight forward recovery job against James Duckworth, there was in fact the usual fraught tension, the undying graft as the match teetered on the brink, and the release as Murray finally edged in front.

For a second, as the roof closed, the lights came on and Murray closed out a steely 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory to advance to the second round, it was as if the 35-year-old had again been suspended in time. You knew you had seen this fight before and although Murray tempered the baying crowd by reminding them of how grateful he is to still be enjoying these opportunities at all, the exciting part is there could be a lot more to come.

Murray will need to play better, especially from the start, but there were encouraging signs throughout that he is indeed fit enough for the Championships after arriving in SW19 on the back of an injury scare. The serve, which has been Murray’s biggest and most reliable weapon during his recent improved grass-court form, was close to untouchable after he dropped the opener, while his mobility around the court was noteworthy, too.

It came after an unsettling start as Duckworth, the World No 77 who is without a tour win this year, deployed an aggressive game from the baseline. Murray was unable to respond at times as the Australian was able to seize control of the longer exchanges, and it was until the former World No 1 found himself behind that his use of it started to settle and he began to ask some more testing questions on the return.

Soon, the mood in Center Court began to turn, and if there was anything to illustrate how it lifted it was perhaps the sight of Murray briefly turning into Nick Kyrgios with an underarm serve midway through the third. “I changed his return position, that’s why I did it,” Murray said. “I don’t know why people have ever found it disrespectful. I’ve never understood that. It’s a legitimate way of serving.”

Although it wasn’t quite party time, it was quite the swing from the anxiety of the first set, as the impending disaster of an early exit gave way to the burgeoning promise of what may come next.

The answer to that is a meeting with old foe John Isner on Wednesday. Murray has never lost to Isner, the big-serving American who this year comes into Wimbledon as the tournament’s 20th seed. “I played well against John in the past. I don’t think I’ve ever played him on grass before, so there will be different challenges,” Murray said. “He’s played well here before. He was very close to making the final a few years ago. “I’ll need to play really well and certainly return a bit better than I did tonight if I want to get through that.”

Murray sealed the win late into the evening on Center Court

(AFP via Getty Images)

There was a positive update from Murray, too, on the abdominal injury that forced him to miss the Queen’s Club tournament last week and threw his participation at the Championships into doubt. Murray underwent a further scan on Saturday and received an all-clear. “I wanted that kind of for my own peace of mind to know that the injury has healed,” Murray revealed. “Obviously I still need to take precautions and still do some rehab and protect it when I can. In the match today it was absolutely fine.

“Certainly I’m in a better place than I was last year when I played here. In terms of like pain, certainly in a better place than I was in 2017 when I played here.”

Murray bristled at any suggestion that he could be about to embark on a tournament run. For now, our imaginations were left filled by the image of Murray, wheeling away and screaming into the night. This will not end here.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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