(Reuters) – A first-round match at the U.S. Open against former champion Andy Murray will be a tough test for James Duckworth but the 448th-ranked Australian says the Briton will be vulnerable on his return to the Grand Slam stage.
Murray’s appearance at Flushing Meadows will be his first at a Grand Slam since last year’s Wimbledon after almost a year out to recover from hip surgery.
The Scot struggled through a series of long matches during the leadup hardcourt season and has downplayed his chances of success in New York.
“Look, if I was ever going to play Murray, this is probably the best time to play him,” Duckworth, who is also on the comeback trail after a litany of injuries, told Australian media.
“He hasn’t played a best-of-five-set match for over a year so I give myself a chance. I’m obviously going to have to play well, but I’m definitely a chance.
“Obviously I’m not the favourite going in but I’m going to give it my best shot, take it to him, try to play positive tennis and see how I go.”
The pair have never met in an ATP Tour match but Duckworth brings insight into Murray’s injury struggles, having endured his own horror run over the past two years.
The 26-year-old Australian enters the tournament with an injury-protected ranking after five surgeries — three on his foot and one each on his shoulder and elbow — since the start of 2017.
“There were times I feared I wouldn’t play again,” said Sydney-born Duckworth, who reached a career high of 82 in 2015.
“I couldn’t run, jump or hop, which makes it tough. It was only really when I had my last operation (in February) that I could run around the court to warm-up.
“You don’t really appreciate those sort of things until they’re gone.”
The U.S. Open begins on Monday and wraps up on Sept. 9.
(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)