Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have welcomed the prospect of Britain’s Andy Murray returning to top-level tennis, while admitting his Queen’s Club comeback has taken them by surprise.
Murray, 32, has not played since hip surgery following the Australian Open.
He described his doubles appearance alongside Spain’s Feliciano Lopez at the Fever-Tree Championships later this month as “the next step” in his return.
“It was a little surprising he announced that so quick,” said Nadal.
“I always thought that he will find a way to try to be back, because he’s still young and still very passionate about the game.
“It’s great news for, first, for him and for his team and family, and then for the tour by itself. I’m happy for it, and especially happy for him.”
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Federer and Nadal were among a raft of players who appeared in a video shown on the big screens at Melbourne Park, congratulating Murray for his career in the wake of the Scot’s first-round defeat by Roberto Bautista Agut.
Despite initially saying that it might be his final appearance before retirement, Murray left open the possibility of a return to tennis in his on-court interview just before the video played out.
“We were more told that this could be it, so can you please make a message?” Federer recalled of his contribution to the video.
“But we were hoping that this message is not actually real.
“I saw him after his match against Bautista Agut and I was, like, ‘So, what’s up? Are you really retiring?’ He didn’t know.
“It’s number one for his health, and we want Andy to be healthy, more so than being a tennis player. But if he can play tennis on top of it, that’s a super bonus.
“I think all of us top guys would be thrilled to see him back on the tour.”
Murray had the hip resurfacing operation – which keeps more of the damaged bone than a hip replacement, smoothing the ball down and covering it with a metal cap – in London on 28 January.
Murray told the Times earlier this month that there is “very little chance” of him playing singles at Wimbledon in July, but said a successful doubles campaign could be the launchpad for a full return.