Britain’s Andy Murray came through his first match since a career-saving hip operation with an impressive victory in the Queen’s doubles.
Murray, 32, was seemingly set for retirement before having his hip resurfaced in January.
Five months later the Scot was back on court alongside Spain’s Feliciano Lopez at the Fever-Tree Championships.
The pair won 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 against Colombian top seeds Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal.
“It was brilliant. I enjoyed it a lot,” Murray told BBC Sport. “I was a bit slow at the beginning and got better as the match went on.
“I’m fortunate to be back playing again.
“Leading up to the match I was quite relaxed but I was a bit nervous when we started walking to the court.
“You want the nerves and the butterflies in the stomach and I had that.”
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‘I feel optimistic about the future’
For three-time Grand Slam champion Murray this was not about the result. This was simply about whether his new metal hip could stand up to the rigours of competitive tennis.
But he could not hide his delight – or indomitable competitive spirit – in clinching victory over one of the world’s best doubles pairs at the west London club.
Murray’s face cracked into a broad grin as a return into the net secured the match, Lopez then standing back on the sideline to allow the former world number one to take the acclaim of an adoring crowd.
“I learnt quite a bit tonight,” added Murray. “I expected to be the worst player and to not feel particularly good on the court, which was probably the case in the first set.
“But then I think I started to play better in the second and started to serve a bit better, see the returns a little bit better and things.
“I have zero discomfort in my hip after the match. Nothing. And if I had done this last year, I’d be here aching, throbbing, and feel bad the next day.
“So I’ll just keep pushing and see how it goes. But I feel optimistic about the future. I don’t know how long it will take to get to that level, but, hopefully not too long.”
Murray form delights Queen’s crowd
Those who had not already secured tickets in advance queued up outside the gates for resales, meaning Centre Court was largely full when play started about 18:45 BST.
Every winner was met with encouraging cheers and hearty applause, with Murray’s wife Kim cheering him on from the front row along with coach Jamie Delgado and other key members of his team.
Most importantly, the two-time Wimbledon singles champion moved freely and was limp free, showing a sharpness perhaps many did not expect to see from a player at his stage of recovery.
Murray broke down in tears in a pre-tournament news conference at the Australian Open in January, saying he planned to retire after Wimbledon because of the acute pain which left him struggling to play with his two daughters and even putting on his socks.
When the Scot waved farewell at the end of his first-round defeat by Spain’s Roberto Bautista-Agut in Melbourne, few thought they would see Murray back in a competitive scenario on a court.
Yet he returned 157 days later after renowned hip surgeon Sarah Muirhead-Allwood, whose previous patients have included the Queen Mother, operated on him.
Murray says the resurfacing of his hip, where the femur head is smoothed down and covered with a metal cap, has been “life-changing” and finally taken away the pain which has dogged him for a number of years.
Whether he will be able to become the first player to return to the singles court after this operation remains to be seen, but this was certainly an encouraging first step for the former world number one.
What next for Murray?
Murray and Lopez will face either British duo Dan Evans and Ken Skupski or the Canadian-Australian pairing of Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur in Friday’s quarter-finals.
The match will be fifth on a packed centre court schedule and you can watch it live on BBC TV and the BBC Sport website.
Andy could face older brother Jamie in the last four if they both come through their last-eight matches.
Jamie and Neal Skupski – who beat Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 10-7 in their opener – face Henri Kontinen and John Peers before Andy’s match on Friday.
Loving every minute on court – analysis
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller
Punching the air at regular intervals and seemingly loving every minute after five months on the sidelines, Murray returned as a winner.
He was at his sharpest in the second set – executing a high backhand volley with a high degree of difficulty, and then hitting two thumping forehand returns to get the decisive break of serve.
Murray also took a tumble, to no ill-effect, and there was no sign of the on-court limp we had become so accustomed to before his surgeon worked her magic.
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