Andy Murray feeling 'off the pace' ahead of ATP return
Andy Murray admits he is feeling "off the pace" for his return to the ATP Tour this weekend.
The two-time Wimbledon champion is in New York for the Western & Southern Open at Flushing Meadows - a prelude to the US Open at the same site.
Murray has not played an ATP Tour event since winning the European Open in Antwerp in November as he was battling an injury problem before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sport.
He is now back to full fitness and played some exhibition events in the United Kingdom recently, but after practising with some top players in New York this week he admitted to some rustiness.
"I'm looking forward to it, like just to be back competing again," Murray said, who is playing American wild card Frances Tiafoe in the opening round.
"I've really enjoyed the last few days just practising with top players, which I've kind of done a little bit back home but not that much.
Murray travelled to New York 10 days ago and has entered the tournament's bio-secure bubble
"Since I got here, it's very different conditions, very lively, quick, very hot. I've been practising. I practised with (Dominic) Thiem, (Andrey) Rublev and (Karan) Khachanov. Those guys don't really hold back, as well.
"A bit of a different speed to what I've been used to. I felt a little bit off the pace at times. But I'm feeling quite good on the court physically in terms of my hip.
"When I spoke to my team a couple months ago, that was really all I wanted.
I wanted to get hopefully to the US Open feeling pretty pain-free so that I could go out and play and enjoy playing in a grand slam again.
"The last few years obviously they've been tough. Again, I felt like I was doing really well at the end of last year. I was so excited for the beginning of this year.
"Obviously had the setback again in November, tough few months after that. Didn't really know exactly what was going on with the hip.
"Now I'm in a position to compete again, hopefully play in a major. I'll try my best to reduce the risk of having setbacks.
"I played a lot of tennis four weeks in a row before the Davis Cup when my hip started hurting. I obviously won't make that mistake again."
World No 1 Novak Djokovic insists he does not have to repair his reputation after hosting an exhibition event where he and a number of players contracted coronavirus.
Djokovic, Borna Coric and Grigor Dimitrov all tested positive after playing and socialising at the Adria Tour in Serbia and Croatia without any social distancing measures.
The players were filmed dancing and hugging together in a nightclub.
The Serbian has said he has no regrets over his actions ahead of his return to the main tour at the Western & Southern Open in New York and that he does not see his participation at the event - and the US Open which follows on the same site - as a PR exercise.
"I don't see it that way," he said. "I don't think that I'm going to show a different face because the people know my face mostly from the tennis court, so obviously I'm back to kind of the environment that I'm most comfortable with.
Novak Djokovic says he is competing in New York because he misses competitive tennis
"Obviously I don't enjoy anything that I do off the court that is related to tennis as much as I do the things that I do on the court, so I love competing.
"I think we all are professional tennis players, and we all want to be here and [for] our season to restart. No, that was also not the deciding factor why I came to New York. First of all, I miss tennis. I miss competition."
Djokovic expressed major doubts about whether he would travel to the USA because of the proposed safety protocols put in place, including a proposed quarantine when returning to Europe.
Rafa Nadal has opted not to compete at the US Open
He has decided to compete, but plenty of big names have not, including defending champion Rafael Nadal, although Djokovic insists the Spaniard's withdrawal played no part in his decision to go to New York.
"I did not make my decision because Rafa pulled out. I mean, if that's what people want to hear..." he added.
"I made my decision months ago to come to (the) US Open and play here because I really wanted to restart on a hard court where I feel the most comfortable.
That's the surface that I have most success on. I love playing in the US Open."