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Andy Murray winning Wimbledon fitness battle as opponent finds out about draw in Starbucks

Andy Murray looked to be winning his fitness battle as he put in the hours on court at Wimbledon on Saturday.

The world No. 1 pulled out of two scheduled exhibition matches at the Hurlingham Club this week because of a sore hip and limped through practice on Friday.

He was still limping between points on Saturday but was in good spirits and hit the ball well during three practice sessions lasting more than three hours.

Asked how the hip was feeling, Murray said “It’s okay,” adding that he planned to play his opening match against Alexander Bublik on Monday.

As the defending champion, Murray has the honour of contesting the first match of the tournament on Centre Court. And on paper he could hardly have asked for a kinder draw against a lucky loser ranked 134 who has only ever won one grand slam match.

Bublik got his first taste of Centre Court on Saturday and said he would be nervous but the 20-year-old does not lack for confidence.

The Russian-turned-Kazakh is known for his trick shots, and said: “Why I am playing at this level is because my game is unpredictable. I don’t even know what I’m going to do. I decide when the ball is coming.”

Bublik thought his chance of a Wimbledon debut had gone with a heartbreaking loss in the final round of qualifying, when Daniel Brands won the deciding fifth set 12-10.

Bublik had not even considered the possibility of a lucky loser spot and was in Starbucks when he found out that not only had he got into the tournament, but that he would be playing Murray.

“I was so down,” he said. “I was even crying. I’d never cried after matches. But that time I went somewhere in a forest, sitting there and I’m like, ‘Okay, whatever’.

“Then I wake up in the morning, we go to Starbucks, grab a tea. My father texted me, like, ‘Hi, you’re playing Andy Murray.’ I’m, like, ‘Ha! Of course not. Are you kidding me?’ And he’s like, ‘No, you’re playing Andy.’ And I’m, like, ‘Nah.’ And he’s like, ‘Take the draw.’

“And I open up the draw and I see my name next to Andy Murray and my phone just fell out of my hand and I’m, like, ‘Nah, it can’t be real. Can’t be real.’ I was calling my manager, and he was like, ‘Nah, that’s just a joke. Stop it.’ And then when I realised, for 30 minutes my head was shaking.

“I never got a lucky loser in my life, absolutely never, juniors, whatever. I was actually I think the unluckiest guy on tour. I’m very excited to play the first event, to open up the stadium with Andy. It’s going to be great.”

Bublik will hope to continue an unwelcome 2017 trend for Murray, who has lost to both the previous lucky losers he has faced — Borna Coric in Madrid and Jordan Thompson last week at Queen’s Club.

Not that Bublik, who beat top-20 Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the first round of the Australian Open, has been keeping track of the world number one’s form and fitness. He follows tennis only when his fellow young guns are competing and prefers watching basketball.

“Even Rafa and Fed, when you watch them they’re putting everything in court and it’s not interesting,” said Bublik.

“It’s interesting to see the highlights, how they’re finishing the ball, but when they’re rallying for, like, 45 shots, you’re sitting there and you’re feeling: ‘Can I quit tennis please?’ But I enjoy watching Nick [Kyrgios], for example. I like the way he’s playing.”

Bublik is also into music and is part of the rap scene in his home city of St Petersburg. He expects to have several Russian rappers in his Centre Court player box on Monday and has two quotes from Eminem tattooed on his right arm — ‘You won’t break me, you just make me stronger than I was’ and ‘Always be a leader not a follower’.

Bublik said: “Someone asked him: ‘Why are you not following anyone on Twitter?’ He replied: ‘Always be a leader not a follower.’ But I’m following someone on Twitter, so that’s not the right thing.”

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