Ahead of the tournament, which begins this weekend, two-time Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray has an unenviable first-round draw vs. Wimbledon quarter-finalist Felix Auger-Aliassime but importantly feels healthy while the Brit’s coaches believe he has a spring in his step.
Murray with lofty ambitions in Tokyo
“There’s been difficult moments obviously in the last few months… the last year with the injuries and stuff. But right now, this is the healthiest I’ve been for the longest period in the last year.”
Just taking that quote in isolation, without wanting to jinx him, Murray’s words there are encouraging – a man on a mission in Tokyo, despite limited play against the world’s best in recent seasons.
Having won successive gold medals at the Olympics in London (2012) and Rio (2016), the 34-year-old believes he can complete an unlikely hat-trick here. Why else would he have opted to compete?
His coach Jamie Delgado believes Murray has a spring in his step and will be boosted by how he played at Wimbledon, despite eventually losing to first-time semifinalist Denis Shapovalov on July 2.
After all, it was his first run to the third round since 2017, overcoming tricky tests against Nikoloz Basilashvili and Oscar Otte at his home Slam. Despite questioning his future in the sport after a tough loss, Delgado feels confidence can be gleamed from that overall showing.
“He did very well physically, came through three bests of five set matches. That’s something he has not done in a very long time so we’re all pleased with [that]. When he plays, people know how much he loves the competition and wants to win.”
Auger-Aliassime, seeded ninth at these Olympics, will prove a fierce opening test for the three-time Grand Slam champion.
But given his bullish nature, Andy wouldn’t want to have it any other way in amongst a new environment which could suit him – the best of three-set format – by comparison.
“Going to a second Olympics as defending champion is exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenge. The Games are the biggest competition in the world.
My goal is to try and win a medal, ideally a gold one for my country. I know first-hand the impact that playing sport for a career has on your body. I know how difficult and frustrating that journey can be.”Murray is relishing the tag that comes with being a defending champ
The pair have only ever played once, 10 months ago in the second-round of last year’s US Open.
Murray wasn’t physically fit enough to make their matchup competitive, having recovered from two sets down to beat Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in four hours 40 minutes.
Auger-Aliassime served 24 aces and 52 winners en route to a commanding straight-sets victory that day, but plenty has happened since then for both.
While the young Canadian will be favoured to progress, he’ll need to produce a similarly blistering start and not give Murray any chance to settle if we’re to see a repeat result this weekend.
Picture source: Getty Images, quotes via tennishead.net