x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Wimbledon: belief for Andy Murray, relief for Roger Federer

Last year's All-England finalists have received a boost ahead of the season's third grand slam tournament.

Roger Federer celebrated a come-from-behind victory at Halle. Martin Meissner / AP Photo
Roger Federer celebrated a come-from-behind victory at Halle. Martin Meissner / AP Photo

Andy Murray believes his third Queen's Club title will act as the perfect foundation to launch his latest bid to win Wimbledon.

Murray hardly had time to finish celebrating Sunday's 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Croatian fifth seed Marin Cilic in the final of the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event before thoughts turned to his prospects of ending Britain's 75-year wait for a male winner of the singles' title at the All England Club.

The 26 year old arrived at Queen's last week dogged by fears over his fitness after a lower back injury forced him to miss the French Open.

But Murray coped well with the gruelling demands of a rain-affected schedule, enjoying two gritty come from behind wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Cilic and even surviving a nasty fall in the final which briefly left him clutching his groin in pain.

All in all it was an extremely satisfying seven days for the world number two with Wimbledon just a week away.

"I feel good. I'm a bit tired just now. It's been a long five days," Murray said. "The last couple of days were tough matches against two top grass court players. Because of the way that the weather worked out, it's been mentally a quite draining week. I'm happy I managed to finish it with a win.

"So I'll go away and probably take a day off tomorrow and then start hitting on Tuesday and work on a couple of things in the build-up to Wimbledon.

"The most important thing in the next week or so is just to make sure I keep improving the strength of my back and make sure there's no setbacks.

"And then when Wimbledon comes round it's all about how you play.

"Anything can happen. You can lose a bit of confidence; you can gain confidence. You can pick up a niggle; you can feel 110 per cent. You never know.

"But I'm in a good place and I just need to keep working hard the next week."

Since losing to Nicolas Mahut in the second round at Queen's last year, Murray has been in dominant form on grass.

He reached his first Wimbledon final, losing to Roger Federer, and then returned to the All England Club a few weeks later to avenge that loss by thrashing the Swiss great for Olympic gold.

Murray finally won his first grand slam on the back of that run, lifting the US Open title on the hard courts of New York in September.

"All of the slams or the big events that I play in now, I would hope that I'd have a little bit more confidence in myself and a bit more belief," he said.

"Just because I won the US Open it doesn't mean I'm going to do great there or because I played well on the grass last year. There's no guarantees at all in sport.

"You've got to go in there, work hard, and be prepared to go through some tough moments and find a way to deal with them.

"Hopefully I can do that at Wimbledon."

First title of the season for Federer

Meanwhile, Roger Federer clinched his first title of the season before the start of his Wimbledon defence when he battled back from a set down to beat Russia's Mikhail Youzhny 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 and win the Halle Open on Sunday.

The world No 3, who has now won the Wimbledon warm-up event on grass six times, needed to dig deep for his 77th career title and extend his head-to-head with Youzhny to an impressive 15-0.

"I have won a lot in my career but not recently," said Federer, whose last tournament win was in August 2012 in Cincinnati. "I am happy it worked for me today.

"I was satisfied with my game in the past 10 months. Maybe people thought I was playing badly. That was not the case. I was playing well but when it mattered the others were just better. Today it worked well," he said in a courtside interview.

The 31 year old won three break points in the first game but Youzhny's powerful serve got the world No 29 out of early trouble.

The Russian, who defeated three seeded players en route to the final, held serve and matched Federer's skill on grass with hammering groundstrokes.

Federer, who has now beaten Youzhny five times at Halle since 2002, saved a set point at 5-6 but conceded another in the tiebreak for the Russian to take the lead with a well-placed volley.

Federer improved his first serve and refused to buckle, finally getting his first break when Youzhny double-faulted for 5-3 before he served out the second set.

The Swiss patiently waited for his next break opportunity and got it after a sizzling exchange of groundstrokes, Federer going 4-3 up and holding serve to clinch his maiden 2013 title after two hours and two minutes.

"He just played better," said Youzhny, whose battling spirit won him a lot of crowd support. "In fact he has been playing better all my life."


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