Andy Murray eyes competitive return at Citi Open, tips Djokovic for Wimbledon title

WIMBLEDON -- Andy Murray will continue his comeback from injury by playing in the Citi Open in Washington before turning his attention to the US Open.

Murray opted to drop out of this year's Wimbledon on the eve of the tournament tas he continues his recovery from hip surgery. The former world No. 1 has played just three matches since July 2017 and decided this year's Championship -- and best-of-five-set matches -- had come too soon.

But with the focus on his fitness, he has pinpointed the US Open for his Slam return, with the tournament beginning on August 27.

Speaking on the BBC, Murray said he will spend the next couple of weeks in the UK, practising on hard courts, before then travelling early to either Washington or Miami the week prior to the Citi Open, which begins on July 30.

Murray was hugely impressive in his role as pundit on the BBC, fielding questions as varied as wine choices at his wedding amid tongue-in-cheek comments from Tim Henman, to his management company and his mentoring of young British players Katie Swan and Aidan McHugh.

But the primary focus was his ongoing comeback, and he said he feels more comfortable on the hard courts rather than grass.

"As soon as I got on the hard courts, I felt better due to the stability of the surface," Murray said. "On grass you are worried about every step you take. On the hard courts I felt more comfortable." He added the hard court helps movement and frees up his hip, saying, "The impact on the hard courts is greater than the grass, but I feel it'll be positive for me."

With attention still on Wimbledon, he believes the conditions are perfect for Rafael Nadal to mount a charge to the final as the warm conditions see the ball bouncing up more, making it potentially easier on his knees, while also pointing out how Nadal is getting more movement on his serve. But it is Novak Djokovic who has caught Murray's eye and he thinks he has the ability to knock over both Nadal and Roger Federer.

"I think Novak could beat both of them, whether it happens or not, I don't know but he's playing really well," Murray said. "Like the Serena [Williams] situation, he hasn't been in the latter stages of the major events recently, but in terms of his level and the way he's playing, he's back to where he wants to be. Mentally he looks like he's where he needs to be, he's fired up, motivated and he's got a great shot [of winning the tournament]."

Murray added: "He [Djokovic] said the mental side has been difficult for him. Maybe he suffered from a slight dip in motivation, which is completely understandable after winning all four Slams, it takes an incredible amount out of you. It looks like he's back to where he wants to be. It wouldn't surprise me if he went on to win the tournament."

He also played down Djokovic's criticism of the Wimbledon crowd, after he was booed during his win over Kyle Edmund on Saturday. "I like it," said Murray of the Djokovic reaction. "I don't see any issue with it. He's a competitor, he wants to win the match. There shouldn't be any negativity about that. I see it as a positive thing, he's back and wants to compete and win. He was pumped, that was good for him."

Edmund was the sole Brit left standing on Saturday, but fell to Djokovic in four sets. Murray, who is currently ranked No. 149 in the world, said he is not surprised by Edmund's top-20 standing. "I think it's amazing he's in the top 20, but why not? I look at who's ahead of him in the rankings and I think he's better than some of them."

Murray was talking soon after Serena Williams had closed out her quarterfinal against Camila Giorgi, winning in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. "I think this is her 35th grand slam semifinal which is ridiculous," Murray said, whose recollection of the statistic was correct. "Coming back from giving birth and stuff, she's in great shape. After Indian Wells and Miami she spoke about maybe coming back too soon, [but] she's playing extremely well and it's tough to bet against her now that we're this far into the tournament.

"[The] Only thing which is a concern is that as you haven't played this many matches, the nerves kick in as you get to the finishing line but it's going to be tough to play against her."