Low expectations and joie de vivre will carry Andy Murray forward on the first days of his long awaited comeback.

Ahead of his first competitive tennis match in 11 months, former World No.1 and three-time major champion Andy Murray spoke to Catherine Whitaker about his expectations for his opening round match against Nick Kyrgios on Tuesday at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club, and why he feels differently about tennis after such a long and difficult hiatus.

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“It’s obviously nice,” Murray said when asked how he felt about beginning his comeback from hip surgery in London, where he has won five Queen’s Club titles, an Olympic Gold Medal, an ATP World Tour Finals title and two Wimbledon titles. “I was hoping that I was going to be able to play a bit sooner—I was planning on in Holland last week but it just came a little bit too soon—but obviously nice for me to play my first match back in 11 months here.”

Murray went on to say that his 11-month layoff has forced him to take a different view of the sport. Once a top player that carried all the pressure that goes with defending Grand Slam titles and being No.1 in the world, Murray is now about to embark on a journey of reconnection. More than the pressure and the victories, he craves the pure and simple joy of tennis and is motivated by his desire to play for the love of the game.

“In 2016 I thought that winning Grand Slams and being No.1 was the most important thing in my tennis career, whereas now I don’t see that,” he said. “I want that to still be the case, obviously, I’d love to win Grand Slams and I’d love to get to No.1 in the world—all tennis players would—but I just want to play tennis.”

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Murray says that more than anything, he felt a void in his life when away from the game, one that can only be filled by getting back on the court.

“I love playing tennis,” he said. “I’ve really, really missed it a lot. I’ve missed competing and that’s the most important thing, getting back to doing what I love doing. Sport is about winning and losing obviously but it’s not just about that there’s more to it. This has been my life since I was pretty young. It’s been tough but you look at things a little bit differently as you get older and go through times like that so I’m hoping that will help me through the comeback."

As Murray returns he finds the game in very much the same state it was in many years ago, when he was climbing up the rankings behind a two-headed monopoly at the top of the ATP food chain. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal rule the tour once again in 2018, but not to worry: Murray says that’s a positive sign. 

The 31-year-old sees hope in the fact that players like Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro have been able to launch comebacks and reinvent themselves well beyond their 30th birthday. He also sees the recent uptick in form of Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka as reason to believe.

“A lot of the older players recently have been doing better and I think a lot of it is down to the level as well—[Federer and Nadal] are two of the best players of all-time so provided they are healthy they are going to be able to compete and win the biggest competitions,” Murray said. “There’s a lot of sort of case studies around just now—they give you hope and optimism. I don’t know if this week I’m going to be playing well, I don’t know if it will be three or four weeks’ time, but maybe in three or four months when I’ve had a bit more matches under my belt and a bit more training time, hopefully I’ll be able to get back to that level again.”

For now, Murray is content to tap into his love of the game, and let the chips fall where they may. He’ll do that tomorrow in London, on the hallowed lawns of Queen’s Club, and even though he doesn’t expect to win, he’s hoping to feel the electricity of competition coursing through his veins.

“My expectations, they are extremely low,” he said. “I’m not expecting to win against Kyrgios, I don’t think it would be right to think that way after such a long time out, but obviously I want to be competitive, I don’t just want to go out there and sort of roll over and play badly, I want to try and play well and feel good on the court.”