With Wimbledon less than a week away, two-time champion Andy Murray is preparing to compete in the singles for the first time in four years.
Now 34 and with a metal hip, he can still remember the difficulties he had as a young player on his debut at the All England Club 16 years ago and can sympathise with Naomi Osaka, who has withdrawn from the championships because of mental health struggles.
“I’ve obviously dealt with a lot of injuries in the last few years which has been tough mentally, but when I was younger dealing with the pressure of playing high level sport is not something that you’re prepared for,” he says.
“I appreciate that I’m very lucky – I get to play sport and stuff and there are people who are in significantly worse positions than multi-million pound tennis players, but I think unless you’ve been in that situation people wouldn’t understand.
“Going from an 18-year-old playing in front of no people to all of a sudden playing on Wimbledon Centre Court and being commented on your personality and how you might look and how you might talk.
“When you’re 19/20 you’re not prepared for that and it’s a big change. Earlier on in my career I did find it harder dealing with the press side of things and the attention, whereas now I have a quite different perspective on things so it’s fine. But I can certainly understand how athletes do struggle with it.”
Still striving to get back to where he was before his hip operation and multiple injuries, this could be Murray’s last Wimbledon, but he hopes it isn’t.
“To me it’s not so much about me worrying about it being my last one, it’s just something that I think about. I’ve had so many injuries and so many setbacks you just don’t really know what’s round the corner.
“I want to approach each tournament and each match that I play like it’s my last one so that I can get the most out of it.
“So that’s why I want to prepare here well. I’m going into the bubble on Wednesday evening so I’m going to get there early to practise at Wimbledon. Hopefully I’ve got some high quality practices – I’m practising with Cilic today and I practise with Federer later in the week.
“I’m just trying to play with high quality grass court players to prepare me as best as possible. I don’t want it to be my last Wimbledon, certainly I want to keep playing, I don’t want to stop just now, so yeah I wanna keep going.”
How long he will persevere with his tennis, he’s not sure. Having lost in the second round at Queen’s Cub last week to the eventual winner Matteu Berrettini, he knows what he has to do to improve, whether his body allows it is another question.
“it’s more about the body if I’m restricted in how I can prepare. If I can’t prepare properly to compete then that’s when it’s not fair on yourself to keep putting yourself out there, because you’re not properly prepared and can’t do yourself justice.
“So if that was the case and I was having to compromise on my training just to get out there on a match court and my results weren’t good – that is something I’d look at. But providing I can train and prepare well and I’m enjoying it I’ll do it for as long as I can.”
The Euros have given the players a welcome distraction from the boredom of the tennis bubble and Murray is still suffering the affects of watching England v Scotland at Wembley.
“I went to the game the other night and I’ve struggled with my voice in the last couple of days,” says Murray.
“I’ve enjoyed it. When we were in the bubble at Queen’s the players in the evening were having food in the lobby and going down to watch matches on the big screen.
“It’s a nice distraction – the bubbles are not always that fun, so having something like that to do in the evening has been good for the players.
“Hopefully Scotland can put in a good performance against Croatia on Tuesday and get through, but it’ll be tough.”