Andy Murray, who flew into Brisbane this week with the intention of playing his first tournament since Wimbledon, has been forced to withdraw due to his ongoing hip injury.
In a touching Instagram post, alongside a photo of himself as a small boy at Dunblane primary school, he wrote an extended update on his current health.
“Hey everyone, just wanted to write a little message on here for anyone interested in what I’m going through right now.
“I’ve obviously been going through a really difficult period with my hip for a long time and have sought counsel from a number of hip specialists.
“Having been recommended to treat my hip conservatively since the US Open, I have done everything asked of me from a rehab perspective and worked extremely hard to try [to] get back on the court competing. Having played practice sets here in Brisbane with some top players, unfortunately this hasn’t worked yet to get me to the level I would like, so I have to reassess my options.
“Obviously continuing rehab is one option, and giving my hip more time to recover. Surgery is also an option but the chances of a successful outcome are not as I high as I would like, which has made this my secondary option, and my hope has been to avoid that. However this is something I may have to consider, but let’s hope not.
“I chose this pic as the little kid inside me [who] just wants to play tennis and compete… I genuinely miss it so much and I would give anything to be back out there. I didn’t realise until these last few months just how much I love this game. Every time I wake up from sleeping or napping, I hope that it’s better and it’s quite demoralising when you get on the court it’s not at the level you need it to be to compete at this level.”
Of course, the immediate concern for Murray, his team and his fans is whether he will play at the Australian Open, where he reached the fourth round last year. Should he make it to Melbourne, he would be ranked outside the top 16 after losing points this week, and so facing the prospect of a top-16 seed as early as the third round.
That was exactly the scenario that Roger Federer faced last year on his return from knee surgery, and he did indeed have to beat four top-10 players in winning the title. So the Swiss man’s advice to Murray when they played the ‘Andy Murray Live’ charity event in November carries considerable weight:
“My big advice is just to get healthy again, pal. That’s it. Take your time, however long it takes. When you come back you want to be 100 percent. Otherwise the problem is, you feel you can’t beat the best, can’t win the big tournaments. So it’s wise and worthwhile to take the extra week, extra month, whatever it might be, because I’m sure Andy has a lot of years left. There shouldn’t be a hurry. You need to have goals, but sometimes they need to be postponed.”
Perhaps those words rang in Murray’s ears as his opening match in Brisbane loomed. And although Murray has not yet pulled the plug on the Australian Open, it is hard to see how he can be fit to play. But he has promised a final decision in a few days’ time:
“I’m going to be staying in Australia for the next couple of days to see if my hip settles down a bit, and will decide by the weekend whether to stay out here or fly home to assess what I do next.
“Sorry for the long post but I wanted to keep everyone in the loop and get this off my chest, as it’s really hurting inside.”
Murray admitted in Glasgow in November that he had to be pragmatic: “Some days I’ve felt great, some days not so good. But I’m getting there. I’ll come back when I’m ready and, like Roger said, when I’m 100 percent fit. I made probably a bit of a mistake trying to get ready for the US Open, but I wanted to give it a go. Now it’s time to give my body the recovery and rest I need.”
This is undoubtedly a blow to the Briton, and also to a tournament that has already lost Rafael Nadal—who is also still rehabbing a knee problem—and Kei Nishikori, who is yet to set a return date from his wrist injury.
Meanwhile, the veteran Federer looks to be bringing his 2017 form back to the Australian swing: He has won both singles matches played so far at the Hopman Cup in Perth, including a tough encounter against the powerhouse NextGen player, Karen Khachanov. Something perhaps to lift the spirits of the downcast Murray.
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