If Andy Murray is a little emotional when he steps out onto court for his first-round match at the French Open today, it would be entirely understandable.

The Scot is back at Roland-Garros for the first time since 2017, three years after his right hip finally gave way following a brutal semi-final against Stan Wawrinka, a match he lost in five gruelling sets.

In a twist of fate, Murray’s opponent today will be Wawrinka, a man who has been through two knee surgeries since that 2017 meeting, the pair having forged an even stronger friendship in the intervening years.

Wawrinka even sent Murray a giant teddy bear when he had his hip surgery in January 2019, a moment of cheer when the Scot was lying in his hospital bed not sure if he would ever be able to play again.

Their semi-final in Paris that day in 2017 was the tipping point for both men and as he prepared to face his old friend again, Murray said he’d felt something was up even before his quarter-final against Kei Nishikori.

“A few minutes before I walked on the court for that match my hip didn’t feel good,” Murray recalled from Paris yesterday.

“I went back to do a few movements and it didn’t feel great. Obviously I got through that one, my hip wasn’t feeling good, and then that match (with Wawrinka) was brutal.

“That night I didn’t sleep much. My hip was aching a lot. Probably slept like a couple of hours that night. Once I got back on the practice court, I knew something was wrong, I was trying to serve, and I couldn’t straighten my leg, I couldn’t push up to my serve.

“When I was trying to run out to a forehand, my right leg wasn’t, it wouldn’t go, it wouldn’t extend properly. Obviously I was limping as well when I was walking. It never recovered. It never recovered from that match.”

The fact that both men are back playing again, at the highest level, is little short of a miracle.

Wawrinka was almost in tears when he tried to return from his first knee operation at the Australian Open in 2019 and it took a second surgery a few months later to really get him back on track.

The Swiss is further ahead in terms of his comeback, now ranked 17, but then he doesn’t have a metal hip.

Murray’s return really is miraculous; though doubles star Bob Bryan had a similar operation and returned successfully, Murray, now ranked 111, is blazing a trail by doing it in singles, where the demands on the body are that much greater.

That have been setbacks along the way; last year, things were looking good when he won his first ATP Tour title since the operation in Antwerp – where he beat Wawrinka in the final – but a bone spur close to the hip caused him to take time off and eventually miss the Australian Open.

After returning to action this summer in the United States, Murray showed good form in beating American Frances Tiafoe and world No 5 Alexander Zverev, who went on to reach the US Open final, in the Cincinnati event.

And at the US Open, Murray showed he has lost none of his fighting spirit as he came from two sets and a break down to beat Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round.

That match took too much out of him and he was well-beaten by Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada in round two, before tendinitis in the psoas of his hip-flexor caused him to take a few days more off than he would have liked.

His performances in New York convinced him, though, that his game is there and though at 33 time is not on his side, what he needs now is a clear run of fitness to judge just how far he might be able to climb back up the ladder toward the top of the game.

“What I would love six months of consistent practice, tournaments, resting,” he said.

“Where I am ranked now, for example, I can feel good this week and then I draw Stan in the first round. Or (Novak) Djokovic.

“That’s the thing which will be challenging, making sure you turn up for the tournaments, ready, play and win against the top players early on in the events, rely a bit on draws and hopefully and get a few breaks along the way.”

Murray believes it is possible to have more success.

“I am aware it will be really hard to get back up there but I feel if I can five to six months where I am able to compete in the tournaments I want to and practice properly I will definitely win some more tournaments and have some more good wins,” he said.

Victory over Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open champion, would be a major step forward, even if Murray is glad to have him back.

“He is someone I have competed against in big events,” Murray said. “Also both of us going through the various injury problems around the same time, there is a mutual respect there. I am glad he has managed to get himself back to playing top tennis after a pretty nasty knee issue. He is a great, great player, and a good guy.”

Britain’s No 1 Dan Evans also faces a tough task, taking on Kei Nishikori while Liam Broady’s reward for qualifying is a clash with Jiri Vesely.

Talk of the cooler weather with the tournament moved from May-June this year, has dominated the build-up, specifically the effect it will have on Rafael Nadal’s chances of winning a record 13th Roland-Garros title.

The Spaniard knows the conditions won’t suit him and that the new, heavier balls will not be conducive to his topspin, making it more likely he could be derailed, with world No 1 Novak Djokovic and US Open champion and two-time French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem waiting to pounce on any vulnerability.

But one of Nadal’s greatest assets has always been his ability to accept his surroundings, however harsh they might be on the day, and give his best.