The Melbourne ultimatum
Andy Murray takes to the court to prepare for his first-round match at the Australian Open, having said it could be his last tournament
I know I’m most likely going to lose in the first round. I’m not happy about it
NO- ONE, especially not Andy Murray, knows what will happen when he steps out on to court tomorrow for his first-round match at the Australian Open.
The Scot, who faces No 22 seed Roberto Bautista-Agut of Spain, practised yesterday with Grigor Dimitrov and there were moments when it looked as if everything was normal, as if the events of the previous 24 hours were a bad dream.
But the cold facts are that Murray will go onto court unsure if he is physically able to put himself through the pain one more time to get the job done.
On Friday morning in Melbourne, Murray announced that he planned to retire after Wimbledon, if he gets that far, his hip injury simply giving him too much pain, with no sign that it will ever improve to let him be truly competitive.
As the tributes continued to pour in yesterday from all his fellow pros, including the likes of Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios, Murray said he expected to feel a little strange when he plays what could even be his last match.
“I know I’ve got no chance of winning the tournament and I know most likely I’m going to lose in the first round here and I’m not happy about that,” Murray said. “But also, because of the way the last six months of competing has gone, I know I could win, but I know that it’s likely that I won’t and it’s going to be uncomfortable.”
For a man whose every sinew has been stretched in search of glory, it is sure to be an odd feeling.
“If it is my last match, I want to try to enjoy it and enjoy the whole experience, which is maybe something during my career that I’ve not done because it’s always been focused on tactics and winning and finding a way, and that’s the most important thing.
“Whereas coming in here.. it feels very different for me. I’m not practising anywhere near as much as I used to because I can’t, so if I have bad practice I can’t just go back on the practice court and work on my serve or my movement or whatever I’m not happy with. I can’t do that any more.”
On Friday, Murray said he may have a hip resurfacing operation sooner rather than later, something that could even mean he does not make it to Wimbledon, depending on the recovery time.
Over the past few months, Murray has had time to think about life beyond the tennis court. But, while improving his golf game might be on the agenda, the Scot said he cannot even think about the future yet, and that to do so might be a mistake.
“It’s interesting because once I’d started thinking about stopping, that there was a possibility that I wasn’t going to be playing much longer, all of the things that I thought that I would quite like to do, I have zero interest in doing right now,” he said.
“I have no motivation to do anything else just now. Thinking about what I do when I finish playing and rushing into decisions on that, from speaking to psychologists and stuff, is kind of the worst thing I should be doing.
“It’s going to take time for me to deal with it and I need a bit of time to kind of get over it and then kind of know what my next steps are going to be or what I do after tennis.”
Having tried to rehab his sore hip for the second half of 2016, Murray had hoped the surgery he underwent in January last year would be successful enough to get him back to his best. But, as time went on, it became clear it was not working, a realisation that in itself was tough to take.
“I’d been in pain for quite a long time beforehand but was managing it and was able to play so I was thinking, ‘If my hip gets better and improves I’ll be able to go back to competing’, which is something I had also discussed with many experts and specialists.
“But it didn’t get to that point, and because of when I had the surgery and what I was told about the surgery and the timings of when things can be beneficial, I [thought], well, I need to wait it out a bit and see. Obviously it didn’t help enough.”
Murray remains a supreme competitor and, with the help of painkillers, will give everything against BautistaAgut, as he always has.
The only thing he does know for sure, though, is that when the time comes to put the rackets away for good, it is not going to be easy.
“I know that will be difficult,” he said. “I love tennis. I love playing the game.”
Andy Murray displays the
Andy Murray puts in some practice with Grigor Dimitrov yesterday