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Andy Murray says events ‘will do what is best for them’ over Sharapova wildcards

The Guardian logo The Guardian 2/05/2017 Kevin Mitchell
Andy Murray was at Queen’s in London on Tuesday where he will begin the defence of his Aegon championship title on 20 June. © Getty Images Andy Murray was at Queen’s in London on Tuesday where he will begin the defence of his Aegon championship title on 20 June.

Andy Murray will not be alone on Maria Sharapova’s list of people to step lightly around as she builds a head of steam in her comeback but the world No1, a fierce anti-drugs campaigner, doubts the Russian will have any problems getting into either the French Open or Wimbledon.

Sharapova returned from her 15-month ban with a convincing run to the semi-finals in Stuttgart last week and Murray said on Tuesday: “She is obviously playing well. It looks like there’s a good chance after Madrid or Rome she will definitely be inside the qualification ranking for Wimbledon.

Related: Andy Murray beaten by Dominic Thiem as Maria Sharapova comeback stalls

“The French are going to make their decision soon [on 15 May]. It looks like it is only going to be a matter of time before she is in the main competition by right anyway, based on how she played last week.”

He told the BBC: “There is no rule stopping them [offering her a wildcard, as Stuttgart did]. But … there is something to be said for working your way back up. In reality it’s not a six-month or 12-month process. The tournaments are going to do what is best for their event.”

Speaking at Queen’s, where he will begin the defence of his record fifth Aegon championship title on 20 June on a Centre Court that will seat 9,500 fans after an off-season upgrade, Murray denied his knighthood or world No1 ranking had played a part in his dip in form this year.

“I think that was more like at the end of last year. All that stuff felt a bit different to me. I’m now getting asked about it every week. It’s almost like trying to find a reason for why this year hasn’t been as good as the end of last year but it did not have anything to do with being world No1, in my opinion.

“I haven’t felt different when I go on to the court, I didn’t feel different when I was preparing for the Australian Open as I did in previous years. I really don’t think it has been anything to do with that.”

He added: “Definitely at the end of last year, there was a lot going on. But this year and especially the last few months, I haven’t felt any different or any extra pressure when I go on the court.

“Maybe now when you lose as No1, it’s a bigger story. It feels like each time you lose, it’s treated like more of a surprise. But I have lost early in Monte Carlo before, I’ve lost early in Indian Wells before, I’ve started clay-court seasons badly, I’ve had difficult runs and I also wasn’t No1, so I really don’t think it’s to do with that.”

Murray returned from Barcelona at the weekend just in time to watch his favourite sport but he admitted the experience of seeing Anthony Joshua knocked down before getting up to beat Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium on Saturday was unnerving.

He was keen to downplay the comparisons between tennis and boxing in terms of courage. “It was obviously an amazing fight, really exciting,” he said. “But, when you’re watching tennis and people say that was an amazing comeback or hugely brave, it’s not really a comparison to what they’re doing.

“Both showed it the whole way through. Joshua was maybe just a bit fresher at the end and produced an amazing finish. Big respect for both of them.”

Murray and Joshua have been friends since they met just before the London Olympics five years ago, when they won gold medals, and they have spoken since about the commitment they need to stay at the top of their sports.

“I think it’s true for any sport. When you listen to him speaking about his own career, he does appear to be very grounded and very aware of where he wants to get to and the best way of doing that.

“Talking to him, I get the sense he has spoken to a lot of people in a lot of different sports. He went out to train with Klitschko [in 2014] just to understand how to run a professional training camp.

“If you’re willing to learn and take on board the advice of people at the top of their sports, you’re going to understand quickly the one common thing is you have to work hard all of the time.

“You can’t be doing six months going out partying and then expect to in a couple of months get yourself in great shape or turn up for the big events only.”

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