Its been a long wait to see Andy Murray back in competitive action – but his return didnt disappoint.
Though the three-time Grand Slam champion had given a small group of the press an insight into his condition on Friday afternoon when playing a practice set against fellow Briton Cameron Norrie, in truth, it didnt really prepare us for the circus of madness dished up alongside the ever-unpredictable Nick Kyrgios.
Murray had left it late to even confirm his participation at the Queens Club, making an official announcement just half an hour ahead of the draw. When he was paired against Kyrgios, it was clear this would be no ordinary comeback.
It proved to be an emotional day for Murray, who found himself overwhelmed with the vast number of people welcoming him back to the sport after an 11-month absence due to a hip injury.
He said after the 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 5-7 loss: I was quite emotional actually after my practice today, because, well, I dont know exactly why, but it was just sort of, like, its come around kind of quite quickly, as well, in terms of like where I was like four or five weeks ago to now.
There has obviously been such a long time, and I was obviously really looking forward to play a match. You know, there was lots of players, fans and stuff coming up and saying to me, like, Its great to see you back and cant wait to see you play and stuff.
You know, that was – you know, it was nice. And, yeah, I was emotional before the match. Once it got going, I was okay.
The match itself was rather strange.
Murray, gritty and determined as ever, was greeted with a typically hard to read opponent.
Kyrgios slumped around the court, feeling pain in his own hip, striking effortless winners for fun in tandem with ridiculous shot choices at the most inappropriate moments.
Obviously certain things like in the rallies and stuff, obviously, shot selection from him is a bit up and down, Murray added.
You know, your rhythm can be a bit off. But there are certain things I can judge pretty well today and some things there is a little bit more difficult.
The 23-year-old has the perfect game for grass: a huge serve, deft touch, powerful ground strokes and comfortable at the net – all weapons most could only dream of. Yet his constant drifting in and out of matches often undermines his remarkable talents.
In fairness to him, this was no ordinary occasion and he did at least get the job done.
It was strange because on big points, when I won them, I almost felt bad if I showed any emotion. Like I didnt really want to get into his grill at all, Kyrgios smiled.
But other guys, if Im up 30, like 30-All or have a match point, Im probably going to be a bit psyched up.
But the whole time I was just like – it was kind of good to see him back out there, but it was a very awkward match for me because I was thinking the guy hadnt played a match in a year, and I was getting smoked in the first set.
I was, like, this is not going to be a good look if I lose this match.
One wonders if a more ruthless competitor would have seen the 31-year-old Scot off in more routine fashion but it was a fine test of Murrays durability nonetheless.
The two-time Wimbledon champion admitted he hadnt practised for much longer than an hour-and-a-half at a time prior to the match, but was forced to battle in a more competitive environment for two hours and 39 minutes on Tuesday afternoon.
He said: I mean, it is amazing how, you know, like it was literally on the sort of the time, I guess it was like an hour 45 minutes, hour 50 minutes in, which is like literally 10, 15 minutes more than what I have been doing in practice and then things obviously, you know, your body is thinking, whats going on? You know, you should be in the locker room now.
So, yeah. Hopefully Im getting through a match like that, like I said, hopefully the body remembers that it needs to be able to do that for a little bit longer.
Understandably there was fatigue – the knock on effect being pain in the lower back and glute areas. The question now remains how he recovers.
Would he have been able to play on Thursday if he had gone through? Could he have lasted the distance if the match was at Wimbledon and went to five sets? Would he then be able to recover from that and play another five-setter two days later? Only Murray will know the answers.
The future is unclear and its by no means certain he will make it to Wimbledon.
I wont rule anything out just now, Murray added. I wont rule out playing Eastbourne and not playing Wimbledon. I wouldnt rule out not playing a tournament next week and trying to get matches like in an exhibition tournament, as well, to get ready for Wimbledon.
Im not sure yet. Im really happy that I got on the match court today and played. You know, it was a close decision. I have not been practising loads at all, you know.
I have been hitting for a couple of weeks, and, you know, the beginning was only like 30 minutes or so. I really havent played a whole lot of tennis, so Im happy I got out there and competed and performed, you know, respectably.
Yeah, Ill kind of need to wait and see what happens the next few days and chat with my team about that, because I dont know exactly whats best for me just now.
Of course, should he wake up in good nick on Wednesday, theres every chance he will give Wimbledon a fair crack.
In fact, Kyrgios believes he can still be one of the contenders.
If hes feeling good, then I dont see any reason why not, Kyrgios said.
There is only a handful of guys who can really play on the grass, anyway. Hes got for sure a good chance.
That, to my mind, seems a stretch. Though there were plenty of positives to take from his return, its clear that hes some way off physically. At this stage, seeing him back out on court is good enough.
Whether he makes it to the All England Club or not, his latest comeback has to be viewed in a favourable light – Andy Murray has plenty more to give in this sport.
But there are certainly plenty of questions that need answering in the immediate future, in whats likely to be a hectic week-and-a-half before Wimbledon.