Andy Murray’s Wimbledon return began in ideal fashion as the Briton and his partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert thrilled the home fans with a late-night comeback win in the men’s doubles.
Murray and Frenchman Herbert won 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-0 against Marius Copil of Romania and France’s Ugo Humbert.
The first-round match finished at 21:22 BST on Thursday in front of a sizeable crowd under Court One’s new roof.
“It was great to get the win and a nice atmosphere,” said Murray, 32.
“I was a little bit nervous at the start but we got better as match wore on.”
Fittingly, it was Murray who clinched the match with an overhead volley, warmly embracing Herbert before breaking out into a beaming smile as he took the acclaim of the jubilant British fans.
Scot Murray and Herbert will play Croatian sixth seeds Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor next, with Murray’s older brother Jamie and fellow Briton Neal Skuspki potential third-round opponents.
Murray and Skupski were forced off court because of the light when they led 6-2 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 against Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek of Slovakia.
Murray revels in Wimbledon comeback
Two-time singles champion Murray pulled out on the eve of the tournament 12 months ago, hampered by the pain in his hip which eventually led to a resurfacing operation in January.
He broke down in an emotional news conference at the Australian Open earlier that month, fearing the operation might force him to retire from an illustrious career which has also brought him a US Open title and two Olympic gold medals.
But here he was – 723 days since his last appearance when he lost in the 2017 quarter-finals to American Sam Querrey – rid of the pain and heavy limp which hampered him before he had the operation with Royal surgeon Sarah Muirhead-Allwood in January.
The former world number one returned to competitive action in the doubles at Queen’s in June, going on to win the title alongside Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.
Murray described the feat as “mental”.
At Wimbledon, he has linked up with Herbert – a doubles expert who has won all four Grand Slam titles – in the men’s event, and is playing with American 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in a blockbuster partnership in the mixed.
The pair started slowly in a first set where Murray struggled to land a first serve, which contributed heavily to his team’s low first-serve percentage of 45%.
But they grew in rhythm and understanding as the match wore on, breaking six more times as their service games improved to complement their sharp play around the net.
With his wife Kim among the crowd, Murray began to enjoy himself and showed glimpses of his best shot-making with a couple of stunning backhand winners.
Darkening skies meant the new roof came into use for the second time before the fourth set began at 20:50, the brief break not halting the progress of Murray and Herbert as they raced away with the match.
“That’s the one thing that’s nice about the five-set doubles format, you have time to work things out,” Murray said.
“Whereas with the sudden death deuce, like when I played with Marcelo Melo in Eastbourne last week, we didn’t have any time to get used to each other.
“Here I think that was the case, and we got better as the match went on.”
‘Jamie is the number one son’ – Andy jokes about mum watching his brother
Murray’s match had not been assigned to a court as Wimbledon organisers waited to see how the day’s play on Centre Court and Court One panned out before making a decision.
And once Murray’s mixed doubles partner Williams edged past 18-year-old Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan, it was announced the returning Briton would shortly appear on Court One.
That drew raucous cheers when the news was delivered over the public address system, with another cacophony of noise when Murray walked out at about 18:45 and those reactions continuing throughout the match until it came to the conclusion which virtually everyone watching wanted.
But one person was not able to watch the match live – Murray’s mother Judy, who was watching eldest son Jamie’s match on court 18.
“Jamie is the number one son,” joked Murray. “He used to get all the good presents. I got like the hand-me-downs always since we were young, so I’m used to that!
“Obviously when the schedule is like that, she can’t watch both. She can’t be in two places at once.
“There’s many times here when she’s been watching Jamie’s doubles, rushed over to watch my singles. Vice versa.
“Maybe they can do my mum and dad a favour and put us on at slightly different times.”
‘An irresistible pair’ – analysis
BBC tennis commentator Peter Fleming
Copil and Humbert certainly started out as a confident pair. They were terrific in the first set.
But Murray and Herbert managed an early break in the second and, from then on, they were an irresistible pair.
In the end, Copil and Humbert had no answer.
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