he last time Andy Murray played Grigor Dimitrov, the Scot was on his way to topping the rankings for the first time, winning almost everything in the second half of 2016 to finish the year on top of the world.
Little did he know at the time that, a year later, his hip would start to cause so much pain that, in 2019, it looked as if he would have to retire from tennis.
Murray’s subsequent operation, and the insertion of a metal hip, has been well documented.
Since then, he has hauled himself back inside the world’s top 40 through dedication, hard work and the bloody-mindedness that took him to the top in the first place.
As he prepares to face Dimitrov for the 12th time — he leads their head-to-head 8-3 — Murray knows that the Bulgarian is capable of producing great things when he is on his game, just as he did at Wimbledon in 2014.
Dimitrov beat Murray in straight sets in the quarter-finals when the Scot was defending his title. Champions are notorious for their short-term memory loss, however, and Murray said that loss was not that difficult to take.
“I remember that I was struggling a lot in 2014,” the 36-year-old said. “I’d had back surgery at the end of 2013. That year was pretty tough for me, I think I dropped out the top 10 after that match.
“I don’t remember much about the match itself, I just know that that early part of 2014 was hard for me. I’d won Wimbledon and then back operations are not easy to recover from.
“I believe I stopped working with Ivan [Lendl] as well, so there had been quite a lot of changes. I don’t remember loads about the match, I just know I wasn’t playing that well that year up to that point.”
But Murray, the world No37, looked good in his straight-sets first-round victory over Frenchman Corentin Moutet on Tuesday and, as fellow Briton Dan Evans said: “Andy’s playing well, there’s no doubt about it.”
Interestingly, Dimitrov does not single out that Wimbledon win as his favourite victory over Murray. Instead, he chooses their semi-final in Acapulco earlier the same year, when he won the match in a deciding tie-break.
“It is easy to play when you are in the zone,” Dimitrov said, pointing to the Wimbledon victory. “It was a straight-sets win. However, I think the one in Acapulco, where I felt like it was a very hard-fought one, that is the one that sticks out.”
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