Andy Murray was having some trouble lining up a teammate for mixed doubles at Wimbledon. Fortunately, he was eventually able to snag a “solid partner”: Serena Williams.
At a news conference following her first-round win Tuesday over Italy’s Giulia Gatto-Monticone, and before her partnership with Murray was confirmed, Williams offered effusive praise for the 32-year-old Brit.
“There’s so many things to be admired,” said Williams (via the AP). “Above all, he really stands out, he really speaks up about women’s issues, no matter what. You can tell he has a really strong woman in his life. I think, above all, that is just fantastic.”
Williams, 37, also cited Murray’s “work ethic” and “fitness.” Both players have been hampered by injuries this year, with knee issues limiting Williams to just 12 tour-level matches going into Wimbledon.
Murray hadn’t played at all since the Australian Open before staging a stirring comeback last month at Queen’s Club, where he won the men’s doubles title with Feliciano Lopez. Persistent hip woes reduced him to tears in January, when he told reporters in Melbourne that he had been “in a lot of pain for 20 months” and was “not certain I can play through the pain for another four or five months.”
Murray said at the time that he was hoping simply to make it to Wimbledon so that he could play in the tournament one final time before calling it quits on his career. After having another hip procedure after the Australian Open, though, he said more recently that he was feeling much better and appeared to back off the retirement talk.
“I had said that I wanted to stop at Wimbledon, because I didn’t want to play anymore,” Murray said after his Queen’s Club triumph. “I was getting no enjoyment out of anything. I was at that point in Australia, and I’m sure I’ll get there. And hopefully it’s a few years away, but we’ll see.”
A two-time champion at Wimbledon, where in 2013 he became the first British winner of the men’s singles title since Fred Perry in 1936, Murray will continue to stick with doubles in his return to action. He lined up France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert for the men’s competition but, in his quest for a female partner, was turned down by the likes of world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and the top-ranked women’s doubles player, Kristina Mladenovic.
After Williams indicated last week that she might be “available” to share the court with Murray, he said, “She’s arguably the best player ever. It would be a pretty solid partner."
The winner of 23 Grand Slam singles championships, one short of Margaret Court’s record for men or women, Williams has also teamed with her sister Venus for 14 major doubles titles. In mixed doubles, though, she has just two such triumphs and none since 1998.
Murray has similarly paired up with a sibling, in his case brother Jamie, to win a pair of doubles titles, but neither were in a Grand Slam event, and he has no career titles in mixed doubles. The 2012 U.S. Open winner, who reached the No. 1 ranking in 2016, did manage to win a silver medal in mixed doubles at the 2012 Olympics, staged at Wimbledon.
After undergoing a hip resurfacing procedure early this year — Murray laughed that it was “mental, really” that he won at Queen’s Club with “a metal hip” — he told reporters in March, “I have no pain in my hip any more.”
Murray added at the time, “It’s not about proving anything to anybody, or trying to achieve a certain result or try and win Wimbledon again. It’s not about that. It’s about doing something that I love doing and not being in pain whilst I’m doing it.”
A Wimbledon singles title won’t be happening this year for Murray, but he suddenly has the kind of mixed doubles partner who can help in any trophy quest. As for Williams, while she figures to be far more focused on finding glory in London as a solo act, she is set to hear some of her biggest cheers in an event that’s usually a Grand Slam afterthought.