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Andy Murray vs Stan Wawrinka Nature Valley International tennis live: Wildcards Murray and Wawrinka face off in box office first round Eastbourne showdown

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 24 Jun 2018
  • Andy Murray vs Stan Wawrinka is live from Eastbourne not before 4.00pm local time/BST on Monday
  • Murray leads their head-to-head 10-8
Andy Murray (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray and three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka collide in a blockbuster opening round encounter at the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne on Monday.

Have we seen a bigger first round at an ATP 250 event? Two-time Wimbledon champion and former World No. 1 Andy Murray goes up against three-time major winner and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in a mouth-watering opening round contest after both players took late wildcards into the Nature Valley International in order to generate some match practice and confidence ahead of Wimbledon, which starts next week. Wawrinka is considerably further along in his comeback than Murray, with the Swiss playing quite a few tournaments throughout the 2018 season, while the Scot is competing in just his second event since Wimbledon last season. With surgeries and recovery (hopefully) a thing of the past, which of these two champions will emerge triumphant and move into the Eastbourne second round? Murray and Wawrinka take to court not before 4.00pm local time/BST on Monday.

It’s really a cruel twist of fate when you think about it. Murray and Wawrinka, both desperate for match practice after undergoing career-threatening surgeries, accepted wildcards into the Nature Valley International with the sole purpose of playing matches and slowly easing their way back into competition on the grass. ATP draws the week before a Grand Slam are traditionally weaker ones, with Diego Schwartzman and Kyle Edmund the top two seeds in Eastbourne, while other seeded players include the likes of Marco Cecchinato, Leonardo Mayer, Steve Johnson and Marton Fucsovics. Not the strongest of draws, it must be said.

Which is why it’s brutally ironic that Murray - now ranked No. 155 - and Stan Wawrinka, currently ranked No. 225, have been drawn against each other in the first round. Under normal circumstances, Murray would have lucked out by drawing the only man that was ranked below him in the draw - but this time that man happens to be someone who has won the same number of Grand Slams as him. It’s the first time Murray and Wawrinka have met in the first round of an ATP 250 tournament since 2008 in Marseille (Murray won in three sets), while their last opening round contest came at the 2012 London Olympics on grass - which Murray also won.

United in their long and energy-sapping road to recovery after their respective surgeries, it’s not surprising in the slightest that Murray and Wawrinka have both been wishing each other good luck in their own returns to tennis over the last week. Wawrinka in particular produced a now-ironic quote at Queen’s Club last week when asked about Murray’s return to the tour and how it compared to his initial comeback at the Australian Open in January.

“[For] the first match I think he was for sure moving, playing well, knowing that he's been away for a year,” Wawrinka said. “But if I take my experience, what's important is how he's going to be the next match he's going to play.”

Stan Wawrinka (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Wawrinka’s first match after two knee surgeries came at the Australian Open when he beat Ricardas Berankis in four sets - but the much bigger challenge comes in the next match - as he said - because you’re not quite sure how the body is going to back up after its first competitive strain since serious surgery. Wawrinka lost his next match at the Australian Open to Tennys Sandgren, and although he made the Sofia Open semi-finals soon after, he was forced to take another extended break from the sport, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo and Madrid before returning again in Rome, where he lost in the first round to Steve Johnson.

The Swiss would go on to receive a bagel in a heavy loss in Geneva to Marton Fucsovics and was eliminated in the opening round of the French Open against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, while his grass-court campaign started with a straight sets win over Cameron Norrie at Queen’s Club before going down in three sets to Sam Querrey in the second round. While he would have liked a few more wins, Wawrinka at least as a lot more matches under his belt than Murray, and if his knee isn’t bothering him, he should start to win more as time goes on.

Murray meanwhile is still in the early stages of his comeback after aborting several planned comebacks in January and eventually biting the bullet and undergoing surgery on his troublesome hip. Scrapping more scheduled comebacks at a Challenger event and the grass tournament in s-Hertogenbosch over the last month, Murray finally returned to tennis at Queen’s Club, and he played as well as he could have hoped for in a tight three-set loss to eventual semi-finalist Nick Kyrgios.

However, the problem for Murray is that hip surgeries are much tougher to bounce back from, and although he may be able to hold his own against most players in due course, a return to the very top of the sport will prove a formidable challenge. But, if anyone can do it, it’s Murray, with the Scot still as hungry as ever for success, many times describing his disappointment of not being able to compete over the last 12 months.

Which brings us back to the here and now. Murray and Wawrinka, with the former still unsure of his Wimbledon participation, battling it out in the first round of an ATP 250 event the week before a slam. Murray’s appearance at Wimbledon might very well hinge on whether he wins this match, while Wawrinka is trying to win back-to-back matches for just the second time this year in Eastbourne - and even that will prove tough with Kyle Edmund waiting in the next round. Murray leads their head-to-head 10-8, with the pair splitting their last four meetings, but this isn’t any ordinary clash, and past encounters go out the window. It will take a mountainous effort from Murray to beat a player the calibre of Wawrinka in just his second match in 12 months, and while the Swiss is still searching for his own best form, he is much further along the comeback road than his Scottish counterpart. Murray could spring a surprise depending on how well he has pulled up from last week, but Wawrinka deserves the favouritism tag for Monday’s showdown.

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Andy Murray vs Stan Wawrinka Nature Valley International tennis live: Wildcards Murray and Wawrinka face off in box office first round Eastbourne showdown

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray and three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka collide in a blockbuster opening round encounter at the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne on Monday.

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