Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
Gilles Muller would get a kick out of that old line about London buses. The 34-year-old waited his whole career to win an ATP title, then two came along in the space of six months.
The left-handed Luxembourger claimed his first title in Sydney after 16 years in the professional ranks, beating Daniel Evans in the sixth final of his career – some 13 years after the first, in Washington back in 2004. With his sons by his side, he collected the trophy from Rod Laver before his emotions got the better of him.
“I had to wait 16 years – you can imagine the weight that I had on my shoulders to get that first trophy,” said Muller, who admitted it took some time to come to terms with his breakthrough. “When I got it, it was tough, to be honest. It's something you work for for so long, and then basically you reach that goal – so what are we doing now?
“It took a while to digest the whole situation, but it gave me a lot of confidence and a lot of strength, also. I think now the last couple of months have been really good for me.”
Have they ever. One of the few remaining serve-volleyers in the men’s game, Muller featured in his first clay court final in Estoril prior to the French Open – his fourth final in 12 months – then reached to the final in ’s-Hertogenbosch for a second straight year, beating Sascha Zverev in the semi-finals before toppling Ivo Karlovic to claim the title.
Guaranteed a seeding at The Championships, Muller will see his ranking rise from his current career-high spot of No.26 after beating 2010 Aegon Championships champion Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-6(5) to reach the semi-finals at Queen’s for the first time. Up next is another former champion, No.4 seed Marin Cilic, who eased past Donald Young 6-4, 7-5.
To what does Muller owe this late-career turn in fortunes? Injury, ironically – and his two sons. Back in 2013 his career was left in the balance by a serious elbow problem that kept him from the tour for six months, but used the time off court to improve his athleticism.
“I had problems with my elbow so I couldn't play tennis, but I was able to work out other things – I think I'm now getting paid for that,” Muller said. “The tennis season starts in January and ends in November, so you never have six months where you're able to work. I mean, you can see also in Roger [Federer], it's kind of the same example. He took a couple months off and was able to work very hard, which he never did probably before in all his career.
“Strange to say, but that injury was probably the best thing that happened to me. I'm able to play all year long with no breaks because of injury, and I think that's helping me a lot. To be able to play that long gave me a lot of confidence, also, and I trust my body now, which I didn't do before.”
“One thing that always kept me going was my two boys at home. I always dreamt of playing in front of them and them seeing me play the big tournaments. So, yeah, it doesn't feel like I want to stop.”
With his confidence soaring and an unblemished seven-match win streak on grass so far in 2017, Muller is keen to focus on his assignment at Queen’s before he turns his thoughts to Wimbledon and making a deep run at a Grand Slam for the first time.
“That's the goal,” said Muller, whose best performance at a major is a solitary quarter-final appearance at the US Open. He beat Rafael Nadal in the second round on his Championships debut in 2005, but has not yet reached the second week at The All England Club – though that could change with a kind draw following the ideal preparation he has enjoyed these past two weeks.
“I pulled out from Eastbourne next week because I had a lot of matches now, and so the reason I did that was to get some rest before Wimbledon,” Muller admitted. “But I really didn't think about Wimbledon yet. I have big chance tomorrow and maybe the day after to do a great thing here. The biggest target of the whole grass court season is Wimbledon, that's for sure. So I'm looking forward to play there, but right now my focus is on the semi-finals.”
“You never know how many matches you're going to play on grass and how many times you're going to get a chance to get on the practice courts. So every practice, every moment spent out there, it's a moment that I appreciate, just trying to make the most out of it. I wish for sure there were more grass court tournaments.”
No.6 seed and former Wimbledon semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov sure has a lot of love for the green stuff. The 2014 Aegon Championships winner beat Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals in west London for the third time, and will face Feliciano Lopez for a place in the final – a repeat of the 2014 title match – after the Spaniard beat No.7 seed Tomas Berdych 7-6(5), 6-7(1), 7-5.