‘He won same week as Djokovic got to record of 23 Slams’: Federer picks unlikely choice as strong Wimbledon contender

Andy Murray always enters Wimbledon as a hometown favourite, and has been the great British hope in the men’s draw for the last decade and a half. He has repaid that faith in good stead, winning the hallowed Wimbledon trophy twice, and became the first British man to do so since Fred Perry nearly 80 years before him when he first lifted the trophy in 2013.

Roger Federer picked an unlikely contender for Wimbledon 2023.(AP)
Roger Federer picked an unlikely contender for Wimbledon 2023.(AP)

The last 6 years of Murray’s career have been severely affected by injuries to his hip, on which as a result he required replacement surgery in 2020. Murray, who had a career year in 2016 and finished as world number one, has naturally not been back to his best since then, clearly in physical discomfort often, and not capable of finding the level that made him part of the ‘big 4’ for many years. Yet, Murray shows up to tennis tournaments and refuses to back down, grinding through as many wins as he possibly can, in a story which is as inspirational as his greatest successes in his prime.

His spirit and determination was most recently praised by his great colleague and rival Roger Federer, who is currently in London as part of his Neon Legacy initiative. Speaking at one of his events, Federer was asked to comment on Murray, with Wimbledon on the horizon and Murray looking for a deep run after his successful Australian Open stint.

“He just won a Challenger in Surbiton last week,” said Federer of the Brit in an interview with i news. “He won that the same week as Novak got to this incredible record of 23 slams and Andy’s plugging away at Surbiton – that also deserves so much respect.”

Murray skipped the French Open in order to prepare for the grass season, and had a good warm-up in a competitive environment at the Surbiton Trophy. He is currently participating at the Nottingham Challenger, where he is the top seed.

“I’m a big fan of Andy’s and I wish him all the best for Wimbledon. That’s his best surface in my mind, especially nowadays,” continued Federer. Murray, still on the path to recovery last year, was hit off the court by big-serving American John Isner in last year’s Wimbledon.

Since then, however, he’s enjoyed a strong run, lasting two brutal five-set encounters against Thanasi Kokkinakis and consistent top 10 player Matteo Berrettini, saving match points against both. He also reached the final of his next tournament in Qatar, overcoming Alexander Zverev enroute to the championship match, where he ran into Daniil Medvedev, one of the finest hard court players in the world.

“So I hope he wins many, many rounds at Wimbledon in a couple of weeks. Andy is a special man and I’m very happy he’s still able to play. He loves it. He truly loves it.” Murray’s champion’s spirit and warrior mentality has seen him re-enter the world’s top 50. It bears reiterating that he has accomplished this feat playing with a piece of metal in his hip — as remarkable an achievement as any on the ATP tour.

Federer feels much the same. “I think with all his complications he’s had with his hip it’s amazing to see that he’s still going. What he’s going through and what he’s achieving with what he’s gone through is incredible,” the Swiss concludes.

Federer and Murray shared a toughly contested up-and-down rivalry, with Murray often leading their head-to-head record. Federer would beat the Brit the last 5 times they faced off, however, taking that particular battle 14-11 when the curtains were closed. They didn’t play each other since 2015, but Murray was present at Federer’s farewell tournament at the Laver Cup in 2022, present to say goodbye to a tennis icon.

Federer also confirmed he will be attending the Wimbledon Championships this year as a fan, after having squashed rumours of a commentary role in a Twitter Q&A earlier this year. He is enjoying his retirement away from the game, taking the opportunity to spend time with his family after a 25-year-long professional career.

Wimbledon begins on July 3, and Andy Murray is sure to have Centre Court billing in the very first match he plays.

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