Andy Murray‘s competitive comeback has been brought forward by a stroke of luck that was probably overdue this year.
The 33-year-old Scot travelled to the Italian Open in Rome at the weekend intending purely to practise with high-calibre players ahead of his anticipated return to singles action next week in Geneva or Lyon.
Finding Liam Broady at the tournament, and pleased with his initial sparring session against Novak Djokovic, Murray and his fellow Brit decided to put themselves down as alternates (substitutes) for the doubles event in case of late withdrawals.
Andy Murray will return to competitive action in Rome this week in the Italian Open doubles
With relatively few players waiting around on site due to the current restrictions, they were unexpectedly given a place in the doubles draw when the Tsitsipas brothers scratched on Tuesday.
So it means that Murray will take to the match court this week, although there could be a delay due to poor weather that has hit the Italian capital.
As wildcards for the upcoming French Open are being debated early next week – and Murray is uncertain of getting one with his singles ranking still down at 123 – the timing is good because in Paris they want to check that he is in sufficiently good condition to warrant one.
On Sunday Murray hit with world No 1 Djokovic and the widely circulated video footage may have helped his cause.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was seen practicing with Novak Djokovic on Monday
British No 2 Cam Norrie is in no need of a privileged entry, and on Tuesday he notched his 19th win of the season on the main ATP Tour to make the second round in Rome with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Spain’s Roberto Caballes Baena. He now plays the Spaniard who beat him at the US Open last year, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Rafael Nadal, preparing for his second-round match there, became the latest high-profile tennis player to express doubt about whether or not he will play in the Olympic Games this summer.
Serena Williams and Japan’s Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori have also questioned whether they will play in Tokyo in what will be a concern to the IOC.
‘In a normal world I will never talk about missing the Olympics,’ said Nadal. ‘Under these circumstances, I don’t know. Let’s see what’s going on in the next couple of months. I can’t answer the question.’
British No 2 Cam Norrie notched his 19th win of the season on the main ATP Tour on Tuesday