ANDY MURRAY is hoping to put his injury woes behind him in the first Grand Slam of the tennis season
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AFTER WITHDRAWING FROM last year’s Australian Open just days before the tournament was due to begin, the last 12 months have been the hardest of Andy Murray’s career.
The 31-year-old Scot went under the knife last January in a bid to solve a chronic hip problem, but the recovery has gone slower than he’d hoped and the three-time Grand Slam champion is now ranked a lowly 257th in the world.
Yet, despite his difficulties, the former British number one is determined to hit the comeback trail on the hard courts of Melbourne over the next two weeks and believes the work he’s been doing with noted reconditioning coach Bill Knowles will pay off.
‘I’m feeling physically a little bit better every day,’ says Murray.‘it’s obviously been a tough year with the hip injury and the surgery, but I’m getting closer. I’ve been practising for the last couple of months to get in the best shape possible.
‘I’ve done my off-season training in Miami and spent four or five weeks over in Philadelphia doing off-court training. Then in December I was back in Miami to do three or four weeks of training in the hot conditions to get ready for the heat in Melbourne.’
Murray has been a defeated Australian Open finalist five times, but will be delighted just to reach the latter stages of this year’s tournament. Not only is he lacking sharpness, but as an unseeded player he could be handed some tough match-ups in the early rounds.
World number one Novak Djokovic is hot favourite to take the title, but reigning champion Roger Federer, 2009 winner Rafael Nadal and young German Alexander Zverev should push him hard.
British fans will also be looking out for current British number one, Kyle Edmund, 24, who reached the semi-finals last year.
Meanwhile, the tussle for the women’s title is set to be even more captivating, with Serena Williams hoping to win her first Grand Slam since giving birth to her daughter, Alexis, in 2017. If she succeeds, she’ll draw level with Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams.
Yet, while Williams is the bookies’ favourite, a host of challengers, including Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Garbiñe Muguruza and Elina Svitolina, await.
Beneath them, a new generation of talent, headed by players such as Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens, have also shown they are capable of winning Grand Slam titles. With British star Johanna Konta and former champion Maria Sharapova, who’s trying to rebuild her career following a drug ban, also in the mix, Serena might be facing her biggest challenge yet.
ANDY MURRAY RETURNS FROM INJURY Novak DjokovicThe Serb is hoping to clinch his seventh Australian Open title. Alexander ZverevRising German star Zverev reached the third round last year. Kyle EdmundThe British number one lost to Marin Cilic at the semi-final stage in 2018.Serena Williams The American is chasing her 24th Grand Slam title.WATCH OUT FOR...
Naomi Osaka Japanese star Osaka won her first Grand Slam title – the US Open – in 2018.