As Andy Murray prepares to rejoin the ATP tour and resume his attempts to ascend towards the top of the sport after hip surgery, the former world No 1 has detailed the frustration of enduring yet another year so far filled with setbacks and despair.
Six weeks ago in March, Murray suffered a “freak” groin injury at the Miami Open that he believed he sustained in the middle of the night. He was forced to withdraw and return to the increasingly tedious environment of injury rehab in London.
“It has been extremely frustrating,” Murray says. “I never expected that things were going to be easy. When I had the operation on the hip I knew it was going to be unbelievably challenging, it just feels that there are a couple of things that have happened this year which have been very unfortunate that have been hard to take but I didn’t expect it to be easy.”
Although it has been over two years since Murray’s hip surgery, the setbacks continue to pile up. Murray had already been trying to re-establish his training rhythm in Miami after catching Covid-19 just days before he was due to fly to the Australian Open.
“I’m trying to do something that has not been done before. So I knew there would be challenges but things have come up which have made it even more difficult. Since I’ve been back I’ve been in the NTC for 6 days a week and that’s all I’ve done. I’m a bit bored of doing that now, I want to get out there and be around the top players and top tournaments. I’m really looking forward to going away tomorrow and being among those guys and having a good few months this summer, with Wimbledon and the Olympics. I feel good right now.”
The positive news for Murray is that the groin injury does not appear to be serious. After returning from Miami, a series of scans ruled out a joint-related problem or torn muscles. He has been able to train regularly and he has gradually become more comfortable.
“The last five or six days there has been a definite improvement. I’ve played points the last four days and there hasn’t been residual pain when waking up. It wasn’t like I’ve had lost weeks because I’ve been able to train pretty much throughout.”
And so now he will try again. Murray is well aware that he needs a consistent run of tournaments and he and his team are currently thinking about the possibility of playing one week on, one week off. Today he will fly out to Rome where he has already lined up some practices with top players as he looks to rebuild his level. Murray will also reunite with former coach Mark Petchey on a relaxed basis.
“On Sunday I’ve got a court booked with [Diego] Schwartzmann and then Novak [Djokovic] in the afternoon and then trying to sort some more after that. I want to play against the highest level players possible because I think that will help me improve my game quicker. When you are practising against the best guys it shows up better the things that you need to improve on, the issues in my game.”
With his ranking now at 123, Murray’s schedule is unclear and at the mercy of tournament directors’ goodwill. He will not be competing in Rome, instead using it as a week for high-level training on red clay. He will hope to compete at the ATP 250 events in either Geneva or Rome and then if Roland Garros decides against granting him a main draw wildcard, he will settle for competing in the qualifying draw.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Murray’s staccato year so far is that it has just been extremely difficult to tell where his tennis actually is. Murray was adamant that he had been playing quality tennis during the off-season in his practice matches with Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans. Of the little tennis he has shown this year, his movement and physical capabilities have actually been encouraging.
Most of his losses have rather been the product of poor form or an inability to maintain a consistent level. It seems logical that a consistent run of tournaments would lead to improvements, but the question remains whether his body will allow him to do that.