Andy Murray continues to dominate the British tennis landscape, even though his return to Wimbledon after two years away in various states of physical distress is in doubles – and he insists the prospect of meeting his brother, Jamie, in the third round will not unduly concern him.
“Well, a lot of stuff has got to happen before then,” the two-time singles champion said when told after the draw on Friday that he and Pierre-Hugues Herbert are on track to meet Jamie and Neal Skupski, almost certainly on No 1 Court rather than the showpiece arena where he has enjoyed the greatest moments of his career. To stage his return there might be regarded by some in the doubles community as a back-handed compliment to their discipline.
He added: “Two weeks ago [before he won the Queen’s title with Feliciano López last Sunday], I was not even going to play, so I am not going to be getting excited about third-round matches.”
Indeed, staying calm seems to be the new mantra of the often agitated champion, who turned 32 in May and enters the closing days of his career in relaxed mood. “I feel fine now because I have a lot of perspective about things. I have got used to it. I am certainly not feeling like I usually do before Wimbledon starts. I don’t even know what court I am practising on.”
Murray Sr and Skupski open against Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek, while Murray Jr and Herbert play Marius Copil and Ugo Humbert.
In singles there will be excitement – brief, probably – about the Wimbledon debut on Tuesday of the Hull teenager Paul Jubb, who has drawn a tough one in the talented Portuguese João Sousa – in the same octet as his compatriots Dan Evans, who should beat Federico Delbonis, and James Ward, who may find the 18th seed, Nikoloz Basilashvili, too much of a handful.
Also on that side of the draw, Cameron Norrie, whose form has been mixed, plays the gnarled and goggled Uzbeki, Denis Istomin, 109 in the world, who was stunned by Jubb in qualifying at Eastbourne last week. That is a match, therefore, that Norrie, ranked 49 in the world, cannot afford to lose – for local bragging rights as much as advancing in the tournament.
Kyle Edmund, the British No 1 who beat Evans in an entertaining match on the south coast this week, plays on Monday in Novak Djokovic’s quarter of the draw, against the talented Spaniard Jaume Munar. If he fights his way through that, the seventh seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas, will probably be waiting for him in the third round.
Johanna Konta, who went out in the third round in Eastbourne, remains Britain’s best chance of seeing the second week of the Championships (unless one of the Murray boys has an extended run in doubles), and she should not have too many problems against the world No 134, Ana Bogdan, when the top half of the women’s draw, which includes the favourite, Ashleigh Barty, begins on Monday. Konta beat Bogdan on her way to the Morocco Open final in Rabat this summer but dropped a set.
On the same side of the draw – and in same group of eight as Barty – the wildcard Harriet Dart plays the American lucky loser Christina McHale, with the winner likely to play the former champion Garbiñe Muguruza in the second round. Katie Swan, 207 in the rankings, also got a wildcard and drew the German world No 84, Laura Siegemund, no easy task.
Heather Watson, at 122 in the world, rarely gets a break in big tournaments and she starts on Monday against the much-discussed American teenager Caty McNally, ranked 164 but owner of an impressive pedigree: the daughter of a former WTA Tour doubles player who won two junior doubles titles, at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows, as well as being runner-up here in 2016 and 2017. She is still only 17. At Indian Wells this year she beat Kristyna Pliskova and Timea Bacsinszky in qualifying.
Kevin Mitchell is the Guardian and Observer's award-winning former tennis and boxing correspondent