LONDON (Reuters) - Andy Murray has played Roger Federer 25 times in his glittering career including Grand Slam and Olympic finals, but he admits that getting to practice with the Swiss great ahead of this year's tournament felt extra special.
British favourite Murray, Wimbledon champion in 2013 and 2016, has not played a singles match at the All England Club since 2017 and has also undergone two hip surgeries.
But the 34-year-old returns as a wildcard this year hoping to turn back the clock and show he can still compete at the highest level.
Murray beat Federer to win the 2012 Olympic gold medal on Wimbledon's Centre Court, a few weeks after losing to the Swiss in the Wimbledon final.
They have contested matches on the world's biggest stages, but Murray said hitting with Federer this week made him realise how great it was to be back on the Wimbledon lawns.
"Getting to play with Roger was really cool for me. They're the sort of things that probably like six, seven years ago I wouldn't have given any thought to it," Murray told reporters.
"I would have seen that as just being a practice session pre-major with a top player, and focusing kind of on myself.
"I'm appreciating those things more. When I take a step back from that, as a tennis fan, getting to play with Roger Federer two days before Wimbledon, it's really great. I haven't had the opportunity to do that sort of stuff over the last few years."
While Murray has proven pedigree at Wimbledon, expectation will be lower than the last time he played there and even a run to the second week would be considered a worthy achievement.
Ranked 119th in the world, Murray has won only two Tour-level matches this year and was overpowered by Italian Matteo Berrettini at Queen's Club last week.
He will open with a first-round match against Georgian 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili - a player he has never faced.
While the true test of Murray's physical shape will come in the heat of battle, he is upbeat about his practice level.
"I've been performing in my practices with top players, I'm not going out there and getting whacked. I'm competing well with all of the players that I practiced with," he said.
"I'll just go out there and I'll compete for every point. If my body hurts afterwards, fine. It's more the build-up that's the hard part, knowing how much to push, having the mentality to really go for it in training."
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer said it was good to see Murray back on the grass.
"It was very nice sharing the court again with Andy. We were trying to think when the last time was when we shared a practice court together," Federer said.
"I thought he looked good. To be honest, you can see how comfortable he is on the grass. Clearly it's just practice, we're trying things. But I hope he can go deep here, have a nice run. Same for me."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)