Andy Murray will be in Melbourne during the fortnight of the Australian Open after all.
He just won’t be playing tennis.
The 30-year-old Brit did everything he could to avoid having surgery on his ailing hip. But on Monday, he accepted the reality of his situation and ultimately did just that.
After talk of flying home to England to assess his options, one of the best hip surgeons in the world happens to be based in Melbourne.
The surgeon, a pioneer in that specialty named Dr. John O’Donnell, is someone Murray has consulted with about hip issues for a decade.
So the Brit had the operation Monday, a three-hour procedure that will require about two week’s convalescence before he can undertake the long flight home.
There were no details about specifically what the issue is with Murray’s hip, nor specifics about the details of what the surgery involved.
But the news was revealed that Murray also had minor groin surgery surgery in London on Dec. 18, which explained his early departure from a Miami training block and the delay in his original plan to get to Australia well ahead of the Australian Open.
He spoke to the British tennis media from his hospital bed just hours later. Thus is Andy Murray’s life.
Murray certainly appeared to be in great spirits. As difficult as the decision appeared to be, he was positive about the next steps.
Back for Wimbledon
“I’m very optimistic because, having spoken to the surgeon, he was very happy about how it went. He felt my hip will be feeling better than it did a year ago. I was still doing fine a year ago, ranked No1 in the world,” Murray told the media, including Kevin Mitchell of the Guardian.
Murray said he planned to be back for the British grass-court season, if not before. He’s been given a timetable of about 14 weeks.
And when he does return, Murray said, his focus is going to change. He said he’ll play a more conservative schedule, a “reduced schedule”, focused around the big events and not a quest for the top ranking.
Murray tried the rest and rehab route. But he has found himself over the last six months going to tournament in the hope that he’d be fit enough to play. The US Open was an example of that. So was the Brisbane event last week.
“I was nervous this morning, but it was the right decision to make. I was struggling. I’ve been in pain walking since before Wimbledon. It’s got better but still it’s extremely tiring mentally when every single time you are walking you are feeling your hip, from the first minute that you wake up in the day and start walking to when you lie down at night,” he told the media. “I’m just looking forward to not being in pain.”
Blueprint for the new generation
With so many top players on Tour, most of them having hit the 3-0 mark, on the shelf you get the sense that a more conservative schedule may be the gold standard going forward.
It’s not as though the players are travelling and playing 35-40 weeks a year any more. That hasn’t been the case for a long time.
But with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Murray, and Kei Nishikori struggling with various body parts – and, indeed, Roger Federer missing half of 2016 because of a knee issue despite not overplaying – it may well become the norm.
The top players don’t need the money. They can afford to pick and choose what tournaments they want to play. And as long as they maximize those tournaments, the rankings will take care of themselves.
It’s somewhat new territory for tennis. There’s the aging of the stars, the toll of today’s tennis on the body and the motivation to extend careers well past 30.
While the recovery and physical training methods are leagues ahead of what they were in previous generations, the new 30 is … still the old 30.
So the new game plan, so to speak, will be to discover the best formula from the early stages of a career to pay dividends on the back end. And the next generation can learn from how the current group are figuring it out by trial and error.