The Battle of the Brits returns, and with the tours still struggling to get underway, the Team Tennis event will host the best of the British players, male and female, when it starts on Monday.
Andy Murray was the star attraction in his brother Jamie Murray’s first stint as a tournament director but struggled with shin pain at the end of the week. That has improved, but only expect to see Murray in the doubles.
Part of Team Union Jacks, Murray said, to reporters ahead of the tournament: “Shin’s fine. I’m probably only going to play doubles this week. I’m still trying to build up to get ready for New York. It’ll be good for me to get some competitive matches in, to get some sharpness and stuff up again. It’s a lot of tennis next week, I don’t want to take any risks with tournaments in the States just a few weeks away.”
He continued: “Since I started training again, I haven’t had any issues with [the shin] at all. Hip was a little bit sore at the end of it, but obviously I played four matches in five days and hadn’t played a match for seven or eight months.
“I guess that’s something you should probably expect a little bit but I as happy with how I played. I thought I moved pretty well. Everyone that watched said that it seemed I was moving pretty good and I think the guys I played against felt that as well.
“Just need to keep progressing, keep building up, still doing a lot of rehab to get stronger and get into positions that are a bit challenging for me the last months.”
For Konta, who joins Team British Bulldogs, there is all the excitement of the pre-tournament and pre-match routines to look forward to this week.
She said: “I’m excited. I just put in my racquets for restringing as I would normally do before my first round match or any match of a tournament – so that’s been quite fun. Obviously, I’m thinking for tomorrow I need to remember to bring my wrist bands, my gels, so I’m looking forward to getting back into finding that routine and preparing for a match. I last competed in Monterrey which was at the beginning of March so looking forward to it.”
Konta shut her season down last year after reaching the US Open quarter-finals with a knee injury that had been causing issues throughout the year.
She continued: “It’s getting better and better. I think whenever you do any research on tendon issues, they’re not exactly a stock ‘rehab, better, off you go’. It’s a long process, a continuous process but it’s been good and hopefully it will keep going that way but as with these sorts of things, just need to manage it well.”
For both players, the focus is on the preparation for what should be the second slam of the year, in New York as the US Open continues its preparations, despite uncertainty about the latest numbers of cases throughout America of coronavirus.
The ATP tour had been about to start in Washington, but was cancelled this week, and although Konta is scheduled for Palermo, that tournament, which heralds the start of the WTA tour, has suffered the loss of Simona Halep. Her concern about rising cases in Romania and potential quarantining issues did not go down well with the tournament.
Konta’s thoughts about Palermo will be finalised within the next day or so, and she made no secret that she would plan to play in the US.
“I think Palermo for me is not fully certain. I did enter it. I think I’m giving myself until tomorrow to see whether I go or not. Ideally, I’d like to play Lexington and go to New York to play the Cincinnati [tournament] in New York and then the US Open. That’s always been my ideal schedule but obviously with all the uncertainty, and [we] weren’t sure if the US was going ahead or the tournaments there, and obviously the men had Washington cancelled so there’s always been just some uncertainty in the air.
“So I wanted to at least be in a position that I had something to play, but I’ll be making a call on it today/tomorrow, whether we keep it on the schedule or we take an educated guess that hopefully Lexington and the rest of the US tournaments go ahead and then hopefully I’ll just be playing that.”
For Murray, still working on building up to a return to competition, the options are a little more limited. With the loss of Washington as the official restart of the ATP World Tour, he might have to adjust his own focus a little.
He said: “Not particularly keen on playing back to back weeks but it’s also a situation here where you [could] potentially not get any play in a proper tournament. For a lot of the guys it will be five/six months but for me it will be ten months or something since I last competed properly.
“I’ve spoken to my team about potentially playing qualifying in Cincinnati to try and get a couple of matches in. I haven’t played the week before a slam – I can’t remember the last time I did that. I would have been 19 probably, so been a while.
“As it stands, we’ll have to try and prepare [for the US Open to happen]. I’d probably say that three, four, five weeks ago I was pretty sceptical about it but then mentally some stage [you start] preparing and planning for that. Mentally I’m planning for it to go ahead.”
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