Doubts cast over Mur­ray farewell plans

Sur­geon de­liv­ers gloomy as­sess­ment of Scot­tish star’s hopes of con­tin­u­ing play­ing to end his ca­reer at Wim­ble­don

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - SPORT - ELEANOR CROOKS

Andy Mur­ray’s hip sur­geon has re­vealed it will be very dif­fi­cult for the Bri­ton to con­tinue play­ing un­til Wim­ble­don.

An emo­tional Mur­ray ad­mit­ted on Fri­day that his time as a pro­fes­sional is nearly up due to the pain he still suf­fers, and re­vealed his hope to bow out at his home grand slam in the sum­mer.

But Dr John O’Don­nell, who op­er­ated on the Scot’s trou­ble­some right hip, said: “I don’t think it is im­pos­si­ble, but it will be very dif­fi­cult.

“He en­joys the Aus­tralian Open, and has been very keen to play, but Wim­ble­don is the high point for him.

“Ideally he would want to play there, but I imag­ine once you make the de­ci­sion that you are go­ing to stop it must get very dif­fi­cult to keep go­ing with the re­hab, never-end­ing ex­er­cis­ing and putting up with the pain.

“Once you see the end in sight, I guess it would be harder to get mo­ti­vated.”

Mur­ray is due to play Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round of the Aus­tralian Open to­day – a match which may turn out to be his last.

Speak­ing on BBC Ra­dio 5 Live’s Sportsweek pro­gramme, O’Don­nell said Mur­ray had ex­hausted all av­enues in his bid to re­turn to the high­est level.

It has been sug­gested that a hip re­place­ment would be ben­e­fi­cial for the three-time grand slam cham­pion, but O’Don­nell added: “Andy has tried re­ally hard and ex­plored ev­ery op­tion that has any real pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing help­ful.

“Real­is­ti­cally, I don’t think there is any­where else to go to pre­serve his hip and get it bet­ter so he can con­tinue to play. That won’t hap­pen now.”

Roger Fed­erer and No­vak Djokovic added their trib­utes to the out­pour­ing of sup­port for Mur­ray.

It was a prac­tice match against Djokovic on Thurs­day that laid bare the se­ri­ous­ness of Mur­ray’s con­tin­ued strug­gles.

“It was very ob­vi­ous for ev­ery­one, you saw it, you didn’t need to be on court, to no­tice that he’s strug­gling, that he’s not mov­ing as well as he nor­mally does,” said the Ser­bian.

“We’ve seen so many years of Andy Mur­ray be­ing one of the fittest guys on the tour, run­ning around the court, al­ways get­ting an ex­tra ball back. I think to that ex­tent, we are kind of sim­i­lar.

“Our tra­jec­tory to the pro­fes­sional ten­nis world was pretty much sim­i­lar.

“His birth­day is one week be­fore mine, we’ve grown to­gether play­ing ju­nior events and we have played lots of epic matches in the pro­fes­sional cir­cuit.

“To see him strug­gle so much, and go through so much pain, hurts me as his long-time friend, col­league, ri­val.” Andy Mur­ray’s ca­reer will be recog­nised with a statue at Wim­ble­don.

Mur­ray be­came the first Bri­tish player in 77 years to win the men’s sin­gles ti­tle at the All Eng­land Club in 2013.

A bronze statue of three-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion Fred Perry was un­veiled at the club’s grounds in 1984, and Mur­ray’s achieve­ments are also set to be com­mem­o­rated.

All Eng­land Club chief ex­ec­u­tive Richard Lewis told the BBC Ra­dio 5 Live’s Sportsweek pro­gramme: “We al­ways felt that when Andy re­tired, that would be the ap­pro­pri­ate time to recog­nise his ex­tra­or­di­nary ca­reer.

“I am sure some­thing like that (a statue) will be done, but mean­while down at the club he is seen as a high­lyre­spected per­son both on and off the court.”

Mur­ray’s hip prob­lem first flared up at the French Open in 2017, with the Scot go­ing un­der the knife the fol­low­ing Jan­uary.

Late in 2017, Fed­erer took part in Mur­ray’s char­ity ex­hi­bi­tion event in Glas­gow, and re­mem­bers how much the three-time grand slam cham­pion was strug­gling.

“I know how not well he was,” said the Swiss.

“I couldn’t be­lieve he ac­tu­ally played, but it was for a good cause.

“I guess ev­ery­body can un­der­stand where he comes from. At some point – when you feel like you’re never go­ing to get back to 100% and you’ve had the suc­cess that Andy has had – you can only un­der­stand the de­ci­sion.

“I was dis­ap­pointed and sad, a lit­tle bit shocked, to know now that we’re go­ing to lose him at some point.

“I hope that he can play a good Aus­tralian Open and he can keep play­ing beyond that – re­ally fin­ish the way he wants to at Wim­ble­don.”

Mur­ray has never pre­vi­ously dropped a set against gritty Spaniard Bautista Agut but ad­mit­ted he is in such bad shape phys­i­cally that he ex­pects to lose.

He told news­pa­per re­porters on Satur­day: “I know I’ve got no chance of win­ning this tour­na­ment and most likely I’m go­ing to lose in the first round.

“I’m not happy about that. Be­cause of the way the last six months of com­pet­ing have gone, I could win but it’s likely that I won’t. It’s go­ing to be un­com­fort­able.

“If it is my last match, I want to try and en­joy it – en­joy the whole ex­pe­ri­ence – which is maybe some­thing dur­ing my ca­reer that I’ve not done.

“I’ve al­ways been fo­cused on tac­tics and win­ning and find­ing a way.”

Wim­ble­don statue for cham­pion

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