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Murray starts Queen’s title defence against Mahut

Defending champion Andy Murray will start his bid for a record fifth Queen's Club title with a first round tie against former finalist Nicolas Mahut.
Andy Murray

Andy Murray

Defending champion Andy Murray will start his bid for a record fifth Queen’s Club title with a first round tie against former finalist Nicolas Mahut.

Murray won the Wimbledon warm-up event for a fourth time last year to equal the record tally set by John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Boris Becker and Roy Emerson.

After losing in his first French Open final appearance against Novak Djokovic earlier this month, Murray is back on the practice courts in west London ahead of Monday’s start at Queen’s and on Saturday the world number two learnt he will begin his Wimbledon preparations against French world number 49 Mahut.

Murray’s grass court pedigree is among the best in the world after he memorably ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a male singles champion at Wimbledon in 2013.

The 29-year-old Scot had lifted the Queen’s Club trophy just a few weeks prior to that epic success and will hope a similar feat is on the cards this year as he looks to add to his two Grand Slam crowns.

But top seeded Murray, who also won Queen’s in 2009 and 2011, won’t have it easy against Mahut, a big-serving 34-year-old who reached the 2007 Queen’s final before losing to Roddick.

Murray’s draw has a distinctly French flavour as in the second round he is scheduled to meet Benoit Paire, France’s world number 24, or British world number 58 Aljaz Bedene.

In the quarter-finals, Murray is scheduled to face another Frenchman in eighth seed Gilles Simon, while in the last four his potential opponent is fourth seed Richard Gasquet of France.

– Towering –

Second seed Stan Wawrinka, a two-time Grand Slam champion, could be lying in wait if Murray reaches his fifth Queen’s final.

Wawrinka this week added 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek to his coaching team in a bid to improve his relatively underwhelming results on grass.

The Swiss world number five opens his Queen’s campaign against experienced Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, with a potential quarter-final against towering American John Isner or former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro — who meet in an eye-catching first round tie, and a possible last four clash with Canada’s Milos Raonic.

Like Wawrinka, Raonic secured the services of a former Wimbledon winner recently when he persuaded American legend McEnroe to join his coaching staff.

McEnroe, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, has been putting Raonic through his paces on the practice courts at Queen’s as he looks to help the world number nine reach a first Grand Slam final after semi-final losses at the Australian Open in January and Wimbledon in 2014.

To enjoy a strong Wimbledon build-up, Raonic will have to survive the most intriguing first round tie against controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios.

Kyrgios, then ranked outside the top 100, famously shocked Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014 as he made the quarter-finals as a wildcard.

But since then the 21-year-old has looked in danger of squandering his vast potential with his petulant on-court demeanour and surly attitude earning widespread criticism.

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