Advertisement

Murray starts Queen's farewell with gritty win

Britain's Andy Murray began what is likely to be his final Queen's appearance with a gritty win over Australia's Alexei Popyrin.

Former world number one Murray earned a 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory in his first-round match on Tuesday.

Murray, who is a record five-time champion at Queen's, is not expecting to play past the Paris 2024 Olympics as he contemplates where and when he will end his glittering career.

It has been a tough year for the Scot, who ruptured ankle ligaments in March and has struggled with a back injury in recent weeks.

The 37-year-old has dropped outside of the world's top 100, with the victory over Popyrin just his seventh of the season.

"It has been a difficult season but I did well to come through in the end," said Murray.

"Any win you can get is important - obviously with Wimbledon a few weeks away I want to build up confidence and get matches in my legs."

Later, Jack Draper marked his status as the new British men's number one with a confident 6-3 6-2 win against Argentina's Mariano Navone.

The 22-year-old won his first ATP title in Stuttgart on Sunday and continued his hot streak on the grass with a 55-minute victory against the world number 28.

Draper, who missed the British grass-court season last year through injury, set up a tantalising second-round encounter with reigning Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz on Thursday.

"We all know how good Carlos is, it's an amazing match to test where I'm at. I can't wait," said Draper.

Elsewhere, compatriot Dan Evans had to retire with a knee injury after slipping during his opener against American opponent Brandon Nakashima.

There was better news for British number six Billy Harris, who earned the best win of his career by beating Argentine world number 32 Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

King of Queen's lives to fight another day

Andy Murray celebrates at Queen's
Andy Murray won in what was the 1,000th ATP Tour match of his career [Getty Images]

Murray is the king of Queen's. His five titles are unparalleled, with gigantic posters of those previous triumphs plastered around the quaint west London club as a testament to his achievements.

With the curtain coming down on his career, it was fitting Murray treated his adoring fans there to one more victory - at least - before waving goodbye for good.

Exactly how long Murray has left playing is not known. He has been coy about his farewell plans since saying earlier this year he was unlikely to play past the summer.

While he did concede this week that his career is unlikely to stretch to the US Open in August, the home supporters have long realised time is running out to watch one of the nation's favourite sports stars.

Therefore it was not surprising to see a packed crowd at Queen's - including wife Kim, mother Judy and dad Willie - urging him on as he battled against Popyrin.

What it meant to Murray was clear. Fired up, he was bearing his teeth in celebration and chuntering under his breath in annoyance like we have seen so often in the past.

The atmosphere was buoyant in the first set as Murray took the lead. The momentum and mood soured in the second as he faded.

But Murray wrestled back control in the decider, whipping up the crowd when he broke early before riding a wave of confidence to earn just his second win at Queen's since his title win in 2016.

A sixth title remains fanciful. But another win when he returns to centre court on Wednesday against Australia's Jordan Thompson would be another encouraging sign leading into Wimbledon.

Missing Wimbledon would be tough to swallow - Evans

Evans, 34, fell at the back of the court in the first game of the deciding third set, letting out a loud cry and immediately signalling he could not continue.

The world number 59 has endured a tough season and looked to be in tears as he sat on his chair.

Having not won on the main ATP Tour since March, Evans played superbly to win the first set 6-4, before Nakashima levelled by taking the second 6-3.

"I'm heartbroken at the minute. It's tough," said Evans, who will have a scan in the next 48 hours to determine the extent of the injury.

"If I miss the Olympics or Wimbledon, it would be a tough one to swallow, no doubt."

Evans was the latest player to fall victim to the slippery surface, with American Frances Tiafoe and Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis pulling out of matches because of injuries caused by the same court.

Queen's officials said the "exceptionally cooler and wetter weather" in the UK over recent months has been a key factor.

"Grass courts are a living surface and will always react to weather conditions in the lead up to the event, usually having a tendency to play more slippery at the start of the tournament," a tournament spokesperson said.

"The outstanding grounds team have done their very best to adapt to this, applying the same rigorous preparation as they always do."

On the court next door, 29-year-old Harris continued his late-blooming ascent with a notable win over Etcheverry.

Harris, who only earned his first win on the ATP Tour last year, recorded a 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory in his first-round match.

As a result, he will climb to a career-high ranking inside the top 150 next week.