ANDY Murray has dropped his heaviest hint yet that he and Serena Williams will be playing the mixed doubles at this year’s Wimbledon – as his men’s doubles partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert revealed the thigh injury he feared would jeopardise the Scot’s SW19 comeback.

Less than 24 hours before yesterday’s first-round Wimbledon encounter against last year’s runner up Kevin Anderson, the Frenchman had been forced to cut a practice session short after just half an hour and was grimacing as much about the phone call he would have to make to his men’s doubles partner as the pain he was experiencing in his thigh. Thankfully test results came back which put his mind at rest, because a withdrawal at such late stage would have ended Murray’s return from January’s hip operation in the most unfortunate manner possible.

“I had a tough time in my practice yesterday, and I had to stop, because I was scared for one of my quads,” Herbert admitted after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 defeat to the giant South African, a match which he played with heavy strapping on his left leg. "But when I did the medical tests, everything was fine.


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“I hope I’m going to be okay for the doubles because if not, it's gonna be tough,” added the 28-year-old, who completed the clean sweep of all four Grand Slams, before ironically splitting with partner Nicolas Mahut, ironically to concentrate more on singles. “I didn't know the pain that I was feeling, so when you're in pain and you're having a Grand Slam, like, the next day, you start imagining bad things.

“But I'm more positive now that I played my match. Maybe not the best match I could play, but I was playing. My quad feels good, so, yeah, I hope it's going to be all right. I don't want to imagine me having to say anything to Andy about an injury or anything.”

As for the topic of his participation in the mixed doubles, Murray, who appeared in good spirits as he practised alongside Roger Federer and Diego Schwartzman at Aorangi Park yesterday, said he was “90% sure of who his partner would be” and didn’t baulk at the name of Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion. “I’m definitely playing and I’ve got my partner, well 90% sure anyway,” he said. “I will know for sure by tomorrow.”

With the chance to benefit now from at least a day’s rest, Herbert was able to get his head around a men’s doubles competition where the expectation on this untested pairing will be huge. With matches likely to be played either on Centre Court or Court No 1, he revealed that the attention of the crowd alone was one reason why he changed his mind after initially rebuffing the idea of playing here with the Scot.

“My first thoughts about doubles here with Andy, I was more maybe no,” said Herbert. “I said ‘I'm going to play only singles’. But this made me change my mind, because Andy is someone who rewrote history almost here in Wimbledon,” he added. “He is the only British player [to win the singles here] for a long time. It's something so special to be by his side, and that's why I changed my mind, because I want to live these kind of experiences.


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“I actually feel more pressure than ever,” he added. “But I'm feeling lucky, and I'm so motivated and pumped to play with Andy and to have the luck to play with him here in Wimbledon."

The pair have been opponents on the tour just once, Herbert and Mahut getting out on the right side of a win against Murray and Dom Inglot in Monte Carlo. But Herbert has seen enough from his days playing Great Britain with France’s Davis Cup team to know that the Scot has plenty to offer in this form of the sport.

“That was, like, a lot of matches on the tour, It went to the super-tiebreaker and it was one or two points,” said the Frenchman, who is scheduled to team up with the Scot against Marius Copil and Ugo Humpert in the first round. "But I'm happy that I'll have him on my side.

“I have seen him as a fifth man with the France Davis Cup team against Great Britain in Queen's [in 2015], the quarter final. So I saw him play his singles, the doubles, and the other singles on the Sunday. I think he's an amazing tennis player and a good doubles player, for sure. He can almost return every serve, so it's good. He's a complete player who can play from the back, but also, when he's at the net and with me serving, he's helping a lot.”

Meanwhile, Richard Lewis, the chief executive of the All England Club, admitted that it will be hard to accommodate the Scot’s matches anywhere other than Centre Court or No 1 Court on health and safety grounds. That could mean some late finishes.

“One of the major considerations for Andy, first match in particular, is safety,” said Lewis. “That restricts which courts he can be on. Obviously Centre Court and No.1 are easy. Once you get beyond those, it’s more problematic. That will be a consideration. After the first match, if the interest dies down, we might have more flexible where he plays. Getting to Court No.2 is a long way in the public area and that is a consideration for the top players, not just Andy, any of the big-named players.”