By Max Kilham
The results we have been seeing the past fortnight from three-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one in tennis Andy Murray are a far cry from the position he was in just under nine months ago. At a press conference in January, Andy expressed that this year’s Australian Open had the possibility of being the last tournament he would play in before he retired.
Nearly nine months later, The Briton looks in the best shape since this year’s hip surgery, demonstrated by his recent excellent results on the big stage. He has completed a remarkable turnaround and is showing major signs of a return to the top-end of the ATP Tour. In the past fortnight, Murray has displayed impressive performances, reaching the quarter-finals of the China Open, and the 2nd Round at the Shanghai Masters.
Early in October, Murray began his China Open journey by defeating US Open semi-finalist and current world number 13 Matteo Berrettini in straight sets, 7-6 (2) 7-6 (7). This was followed up by a victory over compatriot Cameron Norrie, as the former two-times Wimbledon champion prevailed 7-6 (6) 6-7 (4) 6-1. In the quarter-finals Murray faced top seed and world number five Dominic Thiem. Unfortunately for the Scot, he was defeated in a tight encounter 6-2 7-6 (3). Thiem, who is from Austria, ended up winning the tournament.
The following week, Andy continued to impress, winning his first round at the Shanghai Masters against Juan Ignacio Londero in 3 sets before losing to 10th seed Fabio Fognini in a fiery encounter. Despite the loss to the Italian, Murray exhibited his passion which has been missing from the tour since his bout of injuries began. Late in the final set, Murray told Fognini to ‘shut up’ whilst at a change of ends. The Brit was angry after it appeared that Fognini shouted during a point, just as Murray was putting away a volley winner.
This emotion served to demonstrate that Murray has never lost his edge. No matter the toil and pain of the hip surgeries and rehabilitation, Andy has kept that fire inside him alive.
When considering the type of injury Murray has suffered, it really is extraordinary that he has managed to work his way back to this point. Hip injuries are extremely detrimental to a tennis player, as they affect all types of movement, whether it’s lateral movement towards the net for a volley, or side-to-side movement across the baseline when trading groundstrokes.
Multiple prominent players in the past have suffered heavily with hip injuries and have struggled to make it back to the top. The biggest example would be former world No. 2 Tommy Haas. Although the German managed to return to No. 11 in the world in 2013, he never reached the top two again, which he achieved in 2002. However, Murray’s movement has been excellent in his past few matches, conveying encouraging signs for the future.
There is no telling as to what the future holds for Murray. Maybe he continues this form and eventually returns to the top, or maybe the injuries make another appearance and we are left wondering what might have been. Regardless of the future, we must savour the present, as Murray is showing glimpses of his former self, which is something that is far from a guarantee anymore.
Organisers at the Australian Open have confirmed that Murray will make his Grand Slam comeback at the tournament in January. If the tennis manages to avoid injury until the tournament, the scene will be set for a stark contrast in comparison to this year retirement considerations.