This may be my last event, says tear­ful Mur­ray

Bri­ton breaks down in press con­fer­ence Hip in­jury proves his one un­beat­able op­po­nent

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Tennis - By Si­mon Briggs TEN­NIS COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Mel­bourne

The Aus­tralian Open could be Andy Mur­ray’s last tour­na­ment, ac­cord­ing to Mur­ray him­self, dur­ing an emo­tional and tear-jerk­ing press con­fer­ence which found him un­able to speak at times.

Mur­ray had to leave the room for a cou­ple of min­utes to com­pose him­self af­ter be­ing asked the first ques­tion – “How are you feel­ing?” – and an­swer­ing “Not great.”

The true an­swer, it soon emerged, was that he re­alises that his body has reached the end of the road. He did not an­nounce his re­tire­ment – not quite. But he did say that he may not be able to play again af­ter this com­ing week, and that the ideal sce­nario – which would have been a farewell out­ing at Wim­ble­don in the sum­mer – was prob­a­bly too am­bi­tious to be re­al­is­tic.

“In the mid­dle to end of De­cem­ber,” Mur­ray said, “dur­ing the train­ing block, I spoke to my team, and I said ‘I can’t keep do­ing this and I need to have an end point.’ Be­cause it was just play­ing with no idea of when the pain was go­ing to stop. I said to my team ‘Maybe I can get through this un­til Wim­ble­don’ – that was where I would like to stop play­ing. But I am also not cer­tain I am able to do that.”

Asked if he planned to com­pete in Mel­bourne – where his firstround match against Roberto Bautista Agut is sched­uled for Mon­day – Mur­ray replied that he was. “I can still play to a level. Not a level that I am happy play­ing at. Be­cause the pain is too much re­ally.”

The next ques­tion en­quired whether this would be his fi­nal tour­na­ment. “Yeah, I think there’s a chance of that for sure. Be­cause I am not sure I am go­ing to be able to play through the pain for the next four or five months. I have con­sid­ered hav­ing an­other op­er­a­tion which is a lit­tle bit more se­vere than what I had be­fore. If I have my hip resur­faced, it will al­low me to have a bet­ter qual­ity of life and be out of pain, and that’s some­thing I am se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing right now. Some ath­letes have had that and re­turned to com­pet­ing, but there’s no guar­an­tees. The rea­son for hav­ing an op­er­a­tion like that is not to play pro­fes­sional sport, it’s to have a bet­ter qual­ity of life.

‘At the end of last month I said to my team I can’t keep do­ing this. I need to have an end point’

“You guys see me run­ning around a ten­nis court and walk­ing be­tween points and it doesn’t look good and it doesn’t look com­fort­able. There are also lit­tle things day to day which are a strug­gle and it would be nice to do with­out pain, putting shoes on, putting socks on, things like that.

“If I was to have an op­er­a­tion like that and re­hab prop­erly I would give my hip a chance to be as good as it can be, but I know it’s not an easy thing to come back to and play pro­fes­sional sport to a high level. Bob Bryan [who is part of the world’s most suc­cess­ful dou­bles part­ner­ship] had this op­er­a­tion be­fore Wimb and is ob­vi­ously back play­ing. I have had a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with him. But there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween sin­gles and dou­bles and the amount of move­ment.”

Mur­ray was in clear dis­com­fort as he lost a prac­tice match to No­vak Djokovic 6-1, 4-1 in 49 min­utes. Asked whether he had seen his sur­geon, Dr John O’don­nell, while in Mel­bourne, Mur­ray replied “I saw him yes­ter­day ac­tu­ally. I have a se­verely dam­aged right hip. Hav­ing the op­er­a­tion last year [an arthro­scopic clean-up] was to give it the best pos­si­ble chance of be­ing bet­ter. I have been play­ing with hip pain for years, it wasn’t like it just started af­ter the French Open against Stan [Wawrinka]. I just didn’t re­cover from that match and it pushed me over the edge.

“The op­er­a­tion didn’t help with the pain at all. It’s what I have been strug­gling with. The pain is the driv­ing fac­tor. I can play with [phys­i­cal] lim­i­ta­tions, but the pain is not al­low­ing me to.

“I’ve talked a lot, way too much about my hip for 18 months. It’s a daily thing. It isn’t just peo­ple I work with. It’s ev­ery­one I bump into, that’s all I talk about. It’s pretty drain­ing. I’ve spo­ken – not loads but a num­ber of times – to psy­chol­o­gists about it. But noth­ing helps be­cause you’re in lots and lots of pain. You can’t do what it is that you love – play­ing. It’s not en­joy­able any more. I’ve tried to deal with it and talked about it, but none of that makes my hip feel any bet­ter. If it did it would feel bril­liant right now. But it doesn’t.”

Bri­tish ten­nis fans have had plenty to cheer at the Aus­tralian Open over the past decade, but this could be the year the bub­ble bursts. It seems al­most in­ap­pro­pri­ate to dis­cuss mun­dane mat­ters af­ter Mur­ray’s emo­tional press con­fer­ence, but we should record that Kyle Ed­mund – last year’s semi-fi­nal­ist – has landed a dif­fi­cult firstround draw against the run­ner-up from Doha last week: To­mas Berdych. The other Bri­tish No. 1, Jo­hanna Konta, will play a lo­cally based op­po­nent in Aus­tralia’s Alja Toml­janovic.

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