THE names of Andy Murray and Serena Williams will be inked next to each other when the draw for the mixed doubles competition at the All England Club is made at noon today.

The most closely-guarded secret at SW19 was confirmed by the Scot last night – shortly after the 37-year-old American made it through her first-round singles match against Giulia Gatto-Monticone of Italy with no ill effects to her recently injured knee.

While the prospect of the pair teaming up only a few short days ago seemed remote – the 32-year-old from Dunblane was unconvinced about the merits of subjecting his hip to a second competition this fortnight, while Serena hadn’t played this event since winning it in the company of Max Miryni back in 1998 – they certainly make for a heavyweight team. In addition to her 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Serena can also lay claim to 16 major doubles crowns.

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Williams, playing as the No.10 seed here this fortnight, looked rusty and in need of matches during her 6-2, 7-5 victory over Gatto-Monticone and her arrangement with Murray looks like a perfect marriage of convenience.


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The affection for the pair is clear, though, with Williams in particular eulogising the Scot’s feisty on-court personality, work ethic and commitment to equality between the sexes. The 37-year-old has played just 13 matches this year and hasn’t won a tournament since the birth of her daughter Olympia.

“We're a lot alike on the court,” said Serena last night. “I've always liked that about him. Talking about work ethic ... his work ethic is just honestly off the charts. That's something I've always respected about him. His fitness, everything.

“To do what he's done in an era where there's so many other great male tennis players, so much competition, to rise above it, not many people have done it. He's one of the few.

“There's so many things to be admired. Above all, he really stands out, he really speaks up about women's issues no matter what. You can tell he has really strong women in his life. I think above all that is just fantastic.”

The obvious question applied to both last night: were they subjecting themselves to too much as they take baby steps after recent injuries? For her part, Williams feels encouraged enough to want more matches, rather than less.

The entry of Murray and Pierre-Hugues Herbert into the men’s doubles competition pushed back a day to tomorrow by the continued involvement of one of their opponents, Ugo Humbert of France, in the men’s singles. While this is a happy coincidence which should allow Herbert's recent quadricep injury another day to heal up, it also means that the toll shouldn’t be too high on Williams’ body, as she isn’t likely to enter the mixed doubles competition until Friday, a day when she should be free of singles commitments.


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Also entering the mixed doubles event before 11am today will be Andy's older brother Jamie, who is expected to team up with Serena’s countrywoman Bethanie Mattek-Sands. The 33-year-old, who could be on a collision course with his brother in the third round of the men's doubles, is a serious contender in this event, having claimed it on two separate occasions a decade apart.

“You just have to play it by ear,” was Serena's take on things last night. “I haven't felt this good in months, almost five months.

"I know my body really well," she added. "I know my limits. If something is off, I'll know that it's off. But so far, like, I literally haven't felt like this since February. It's a really good feeling.

"I haven't played a ton of matches. I think this is the 13th match for the whole year for me. It felt really good to get there. It's also Wimbledon. It's Centre Court. It was big moment for me."

As it happened, Andy revealed yesterday that an interest in the art world had helped him get through his injury woes. He particularly enjoys modern art and namechecked a painter, sculptor and tennis fan called Maggi Hambling as one of his favourites, even if his one attempt at painting was a disaster. "I don't care if I really like something and someone thinks it is terrible, it doesn't matter," he said. "That's the beauty of art - you like what you like and see it differently to other people."


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So enamoured was this 32-year-old from Turin about the part she played in yesterday’s Centre Court match up with the American, particular a second set where she forced Williams to play some excellent tennis to finish her off, that she stayed behind at the end to get a selfie taken with her opponent.

“It shows that it doesn't matter what age you are, whether you're 15 or in your early 30s, you still have a chance to be great at whatever you do. She really took it to me today. She's had some really good, strong matches in the past few months. Honestly, it's a good thing to see."

While Serena sailed on, a few high profile former winners in the ladies singles draw were having no such luck. Garbine Muguruza, the 2017 champion now reduced to the No 26 seed, crashed out to Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-4-6-4.

And it was the end of the road for Maria Sharapova. One woman already passed over by Murray for the mixed doubles gig, she cut a disconsolate figure after retiring hurt when trailing to France’s Pauline Parmentier by a 6-4, 6-7 (4), 0-5 scoreline.

“I don't want to leave. Of course, I withdrew in the middle of the match. I rarely do that. I haven't given a press conference in a long time at a Grand Slam. I want to show up. I just saw a doctor, did a scan. Those things are not fun. I haven't seen my team yet. This is part of the job.”