The news that Andy Murray will “most likely” miss the rest of the 2017 tennis season seems to have sent shockwaves through the sport but is it really all that much of a surprise?
Murray is arguably Britain’s greatest ever sportsman, winning 45 ATP titles, three Grand Slams, double Olympic gold, a career high ranking of world No.1 and accumulating $60.8m worth of prize money along the way.
For all these glistening accolades and achievements, the Scot is still viewed as a grafter, rather than attributed with the elegance of Roger Federer or natural athleticism at Novak Djokovic’s disposal.
This is a man who has had to push his body to the absolute limit to get where he is today. Comparable only to Rafael Nadal, Murray is considered the best athlete on tour with a reliance on his grit and determination to navigate himself out of tricky matches rather than his balletic skill with a racket. But at what price?
Today, the sensitive Scot penned an emotional Instagram post detailing his injury woes and expectations for the future:
Hi everyone… Just wanted to update you all on my injury and the rest of my season. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to compete in the upcoming events in Beijing and Shanghai, and most likely, the final two events to finish the season in Vienna and Paris due to my hip injury which has been bothering me the last few months. Having consulted with a number of leading hip specialists over the last week, along with my own team, we have decided that this is the best decision for my long-term future. Although this has been a frustrating year on court for many reasons, I’m confident after this extended period of rest and rehabilitation that I will be able to reach my best level again and be competing for Grand Slam titles next season. I will be beginning my 2018 season in Brisbane in preparation for the Australian Open and I’m look forward playing in Glasgow later this year against Roger for UNICEF UK and Sunny-sid3up. I have a fantastic team working alongside me to help me through this process and appreciate the support from them and all of my fans over this difficult period. 🚴🏃🏋️💪🎾😊👍
The landscape of tennis has changed so dramatically it is no wonder the sport’s top players are now having to intricately manage their game time. Rankings aside, the ‘big four’ of Murray, Djokovic, Federer and Nadal have all taken lengthy breaks from the demands of the tennis circuit in order to lengthen their careers.
All now into their 30s, these guys are still in phenomenal shape and continue to dominate the sport at the highest level, none more so than the 36-year-old Federer who has been compared to a ‘fine wine’ due to his most recent Wimbledon title in supposedly the latter stages of his career.
Murray’s hip problem became apparent in the lead-up to this year’s French Open with disastrous clay court form, losing back-to-back matches against Borna Coric and Fabio Fognini in Madrid and Rome. He miraculously reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros but in his defeat to Stan Wawrinka, there was an obvious anguish etched across his face.
His poor form rolled over into the grass court season with a first-round loss at Queen’s by the hand of lucky loser and then world No.90, Jordan Thompson plus a fairly innocuous exit from Wimbledon a week later, winning just two games in the final two sets against the American and Jordan Henderson dead-ringer, Sam Querrey.
— LFCZA 🇿🇦 (@LFCZA) July 2, 2015
The thinking behind this sudden dramatic dip – despite a mere eight months previously storming to become the first British singles player to be world No.1 since computerised rankings began in 1973 – was down to fatherhood and an understandable lapse in motivation after achieving above and beyond his wildest dreams, but evidently it is down to something much more sinister in play.
These are worrying times for Murray and his fans but perhaps this decision is one of high intelligence designed to preserve the Murray legacy and ensures its last chapter is written well beyond 2018.