After hip surgery, Andy Murray out until June

Save

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.

β€œI 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.

Murray, Nishikori out. The rest? Maybes

Save

In the “not very surprising” department, the first two of the ATP Tour’s walking wounded have officially abandoned their quests to be healthy enough to compete in the first Grand Slam of the season.

First came Japanese star Kei Nishikori, who is recovering from a wrist issue. The 28-year-old had already pulled out of two planned warmup events.

Nishikori now is out of the Australian Open. He never even made the long trip Down Under.

Second up is Andy Murray, who has been trying so hard to be back on the court as he deals with what’s becoming a chronic hip injury.

Murray went to Abu Dhabi, even though he didn’t play in the exhibition there. He played a fun set against Roberto Bautista-Agut after Novak Djokovic pulled out. And he didn’t look very good.

The Brit then traveled to Brisbane, Australia to try to make his date there.

Murray played some practice sets against top opponents, but felt he wasn’t competitive enough, or pain-free enough, to play that event.

The rest of the crew – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka – all former Australian Open champions – are still question marks.

(Also announced Friday in Australia was that defending women’s champion Serena Williams also won’t be on hand. For a very different reason, though).

Murray headed home to assess options

Now that he’s out of the Australian Open, as well, a long trip to Australia for naught, Murray will head back to Great Britain to assess his situation.

After diligently working on rehab to try to avoid hip surgery, the Brit intimated earlier this week that the surgery option can no longer be completely off the table.

And that’s a sad state of affairs.

Nishikori in Newport Beach

Nishikori has taken a wild card into the Newport Beach Challenger, one of two new events sponsored by Oracle (whose owner, Larry Ellison, owns the Indian Wells event).

It will be Nishikori’s first appearance at the Challenger level since he lost to Amer Delic in the second round of the Champaign Challenger in Nov. 2010.

That’s a huge boost for the inaugural edition of the event, which takes place the second week of the Australian Open.

For Nishikori, the appearance in a Challenger is a savvy move, assuming he has progressed as expected from the wrist issue. He, too, wanted nothing more than to avoid surgery. He has seen how so many talented players have struggled to return after being operated on their wrists.

This way, he will be able to ease back into tennis slowly, after being out since losing in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal to GaΓ«l Monfils in early August.

He also can return playing best-of-three sets, rather than the best-of-five Grand Slam format.

Tennis.Life also is told that Nishikori has accepted a wild card into the $125,000 Dallas Challenger the week after Newport Beach. If true, that’s even better. He also is scheduled to play the inaugural New York Open in mid-February.

Nadal in the house

On the positive side, Rafael Nadal has arrived in Melbourne.

(Photo: Australian Open Twitter)

The world No. 1 played just one match before withdrawing from the ATP Tour Finals in London in November, with his right knee giving him trouble again. 

Before that, he had pulled out of the Basel tournament, and gave opponent Filip Krajinovic a walkover in the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters.

Nada withdrew from Abu Dhabi and from the Brisbane warmup event.

Along with Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, Nadal is scheduled to test out the knee in the Tie Break Tens exhibition next Wednesday in Margaret Court Arena.

He is arriving a good 10 days before the Australian Open starts.

Where is Wawrinka? On the plane!

Nishikori
Wawrinka’s Snapchat is good news – he’s on his way Down Under.

The Swiss No. 2 has been very low-profile on social media for a month. But he has been on Snapchat. And today’s posting was the best-news snap for his fans.

Wawrinka left Geneva for Abu Dhabi Thursday night. There’s a direct flight to Melbourne from there, leaving some three hours later, on Friday morning.

So it appears he will give it a go at the Tie Break Tens, and go from there.

Expectations, after knee surgery, with no matches and the best-of-five format, will no doubt be rock-bottom.

But with the loss of Murray and Nishikori, that’s at least two of the top guns who are at least going to try.

As for Milos Raonic, he lost his first match in Brisbane to young Australian wild card Alex de Minaur, 6-4, 6-4. But at least he’s back.

Whither Djoker?

The former No. 1 withdrew from the Abu Dhabi exhibition when he experienced pain in his elbow during practice before his first match. 

A day later, Djokovic pulled out of this week’s ATP Tour event in Doha.

He will be in Australia. Djokovic has signed on for Tie Break Tens event, as well as the Kooyong Classic that takes place a 10-minute drive away from Melbourne Park. It’s not known how many matches Djokovic will actually play there.

The Serb hasn’t played since retiring in the second set of his quarterfinal match at Wimbledon against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

Murray out of Brisbane, future uncertain

Save

The uncertain health of the top players on the ATP Tour is not only concerning for the players themselves.

It also is wreaking havoc with the Australian Open warmup season – especially if the player pulls out after the draw is made.

That’s the case with Andy Murray, who withdrew from the Brisbane International Tuesday.

Murray had travelled from London, to Abu Dhabi, to Brisbane as he intended to honor his commitment to the tournament and get a tuneup event under his belt before the first Grand Slam of the season.

He did practice, including with Canadian Milos Raonic, and played some practice sets.

But he didn’t hit Tuesday, ahead of his scheduled second-round match against American Ryan Harrison. (Murray had a first-round bye, as the No. 2 seed).

And then … he was out.

Very, very disappointed

β€œI’m very disappointed. I came here with every intention of making a strong start to the year but sadly my team and I don’t feel that I’m where I need to be just yet to compete at the highest level,” Murray said.

In a Facebook post, Murray was much more expansive. And although he has done everything he can to avoid surgery on what has now become a chronic hip issue, he seems to be at the point where he’s considering it – even if, as he points out, there is no guarantee of a successful outcome.

Not to mention, the amount of time it will take to rehab and return to play.

Murray knows all about this, after coming back post back surgery a few years ago.

One thing is for sure, he’s really, really missing the competition.

Also – that photo is the cutest.

Lucky loser Yannick Hanfmann will replace Murray, jumping straight into the second round.

Add Djokovic to the β€œuncertain for Oz” list

Save

Uncertainty over health has threatened to scuttle what was to be a fascinating, en-masse return to action from top players on the ATP Tour.

But among the question marks, Novak Djokovic seemed the one most ready to return to action.

But now, the former No. 1 also is an uncertainty.

Djokovic pulled out of the exhibition in Abu Dhabi Friday without having played a match.

He cited pain in the elbow that has kept him out since Wimbledon last July. His first scheduled match was to be Friday evening.

The official quote on Djokovic’s website:

β€œI am terribly disappointed that I am forced to withdraw from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. Unfortunately, in the past few days I started to feel pain in the elbow. And after several tests, my medical team has advised me not to risk anything, to withdraw from the tournament and to immediately continue with the therapies.

β€œI am very sad because I was eager to return to playing official matches. I enjoyed the practices and everything I did to get ready for the start of the season, including the tournament in Abu Dhabi, where I always enjoy playing. Now I need to accept this situation, and to wait for the results of the therapies, in order to start playing tennis again and getting back to full rhythm. This might affect the start of the season and the tournament plan. But the decision will be made in the following days.”

Djokovic had returned to full-practice mode fairly late in the offseason. Still, with the arrival of mentor Andre Agassi in Europe and the hiring of day-to-day coach Radek Stepanek, it appeared all systems would be go with his full team in place.

Andy Murray steps in

The Serb’s public pronouncements had been extremely encouraging.

But with the normal increase in intensity leading up to his first match since July, he felt some pain.

In an ironic twist, Andy Murray will step in for Djokovic for the scheduled match against Bautista-Agut.

Murray’s ongoing hip issues led to his own withdrawal from the event. But he arrived in the city Thursday, set to practice with some of the players in the event. The idea (beyond helping out the organizers of an event decimated by late withdrawals from its top players) was to gauge the state of his hip.

Murray plans to head to Brisbane for the first scheduled tournament of his 2018 season.

Brisbane already has been hit with the withdrawals of Rafael Nadal (who also pulled out of Abu Dhabi) and Kei Nishikori.

For his part, Djokovic is entered in the ATP tournament in nearby Doha next week.

Divorce is final for Murray and Lendl

Save

They broke up once before. They couldn’t quit each other.

But this time, it seems permanent.

After a season during which Andy Murray struggled with a hip injury, he and mentor Ivan Lendl have called it a day – again.

β€œI’m thankful to Ivan for all his help and guidance over the years, we’ve had great success and learned a lot as a team. My focus now is on getting ready for Australia with the team I have in place and getting back to competing,” Murray said in a statement Friday.

The pair had first hooked up in December 2011, and they lasted until the spring of 2014 – just before the Miami event – through Murray’s rehab from back surgery late in 2013.

Murray was the innovator in the “former top player as mentor to add that little one or two per cent” coaching system. Many players, including Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic, followed in his path.

Murray and Lendl on the practice court at the Australian Open, during their first go-round. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

And it seemed to work. With Lendl by his side, Murray won his first major at the 2012 US Open. He also won an Olympic gold medal in London, and finally broke the British men’s curse at Wimbledon with his title in 2013.

Another breakup, another rehab

At the time, Murray wanted more weeks than the busy Lendl was ready to commit to. And in the last six months of their relationship, the focus was more on Murray getting back to 100 per cent after the back surgery than anything else.

There are some similarities to Murray’s current situation. 

Full Team Murray during a practice session on Court Suzanne Lenglen before the start of this year’s French Open. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

He hasn’t played since Wimbledon. And again, the focus over the last few months – and the months to come – will be on getting his chronically-ailing hip back to where he can play his best tennis again.

As well, Murray is now 30, a father of two and an experienced competitor who has those majors and the No. 1 ranking on his resumΓ©. With coach Jamie Delgado on board on a daily basis, he has a good-enough team around him for the foreseeable future.

Truth: there’s not a whole lot Lendl can even do for him, at the moment.

Murray plans to return to the tour in early January at the Brisbane event, leading up to the Australian Open.

Roger Federer – comely in a kilt

Save

β€œIf somebody brings me a kilt – I will put it on”.

Those were fighting words from Roger Federer, in an arena with some 14,000 Glaswegians Tuesday night as he joined Andy Murray for a charity exhibition.

Needless to say, someone had a kilt.

And the young lady seemed quite pleased to not only remove it (and wear a coat around her lower half while it was out on loan), but also to personally put it on Federer for the occasion.

The world No. 2 played one game with it, won the game, and proved that he doesn’t mind looking like a dork if it’s for a good cause.

Madame then had the privilege of unbuckling Federer, who then not only autographed the garment, but brought it over in the middle of the match so Murray could do the same.

It may well end up framed in the lady’s parlour. But the best part was that she acted as if it were, “Hey, no big deal. This sort of stuff happens to me all the time.”

Murray back on court after 4 months

Save

An exhibition before 14,000 adoring compatriots is not a bad place to start, when you’re looking to define the state of a balky hip after four months off court, 

And so, even though Andy Murray lost in a match tiebreak to the visiting Roger Federer Tuesday in Glasgow, it was a win-win.

Murray’s charities got a healthy boost to their bottom line. And the Scot was able to put it out there against one of the best.

He was rather pleased with how his form held up.

“It was a bit better than expected. I was pretty nervous before and I didn’t know exactly how I was going to feel. But I did okay,” Murray said on court after the match. “The hip felt pretty good – not perfect yet – but it’s going in the right direction. I’ve got eight more weeks until the first tournament of the year, hopefully I’ll be ready to go by then.”

Careful start against Federer

Murray began a little gingerly, letting a few potentially reachable shots go by in the early going. But by the end he was chasing down whatever he could. 

As ornery and disheveled as Murray can sometimes look on court at the best of times, it was hard to discern a difference with the naked eye, in terms of whether or not anything was bothering him.

And, of course, it’s hard to tell how much is the body, and how much is simply the lack of matches since Wimbledon.

Murray

There’s little doubt Federer took his foot off the gas pedal a little after winning the first set. It was an exhibition, and Federer always knows exactly what city he’s in even if the hotel suites start to look astoundingly alike after awhile.

Before the exhibition (Murray and brother Jamie also came out to play doubles after the singles), Murray seemed a little more hesitant on the current state of things.

Murray not rushing it this time

He said that, in retrospect, doing everything he could to try to be fit for the US Open in late August was probably a bad call.

“I hope I’m there, things have been going pretty well so far in the rehab,” Murray told reporters in Glasgow, as reported in the Daily Mail, about starting the season as planned in Brisbane. “But you just never know … I’ve been training for a few weeks now, some days I’ve felt great, some days not so good but I’m getting there and I’ll come back when I’m ready and 100 per cent fit.”

Murray said that over the last 10 days, he had upped his on-court time to 1 1/2 – 2 hours a day – most days. But it was not at full intensity. He said he also is taking advantage of the unwanted down time to “work on a few technical things”.

The Scot’s hip may be the most-watched body part in British sport at the moment. It’s impressive that he’s been able to keep a very low profile in recent months. Which shows that if there’s a will, there often is a way.

Europort streamed a 360 version on its Facebook page.

The technology isn’t what it soon will be, but it was a neat initiative nonetheless.

Berdych, Kyrgios end their seasons

Save

It became a trend some time ago.

On Thursday, the latest to join the “end your season early” gang were Tomas Berdych and, later in the day, Nick Kyrgios.

Kyrgios had appeared hobbled by a number of issues in recent months – his shoulder and his knees. But mostly, a hip issue he has carried since Queen’s Club, just before Wimbledon.

He said awhile back that he would probably need surgery on it some day.

But he doesn’t want that day to be now.

“I have played a huge amount of tennis since coming back from my hip injury in Washington and unless I want this to escalate to an injury that requires surgery, I need to listen to my body and my team,” Kyrgios said in a statement released on Twitter.

“This year hasn’t been as successful as I would have liked, especially at the Slams although it has been positive in some other areas. It’s been no secret that I have had some sad moments to deal with away from the court which have added to my disappointments throughout the year.”

Berdych

Berdych’s back woes

Berdych, who began the season in the top 10, is currently down at No. 18 and announced  he’s skipping the final two weeks of the season because of persistent back pain.

It had been fairly evident in recent months that he was a mere shadow of his former self.

“I have been playing matches with back pain since Wimbledon and in my last match in Beijing I felt like it was not getting better,” Berdych wrote on Twitter.

“And I was advised by my medical team to give it a few weeks of rest, and to have treatment, in order to be completely (healthy) and pain free and to be ready to compete at the start of 2018.”

Early-birds club membership full

The two players join an ever-larger group of top-20 players on the men’s side who have called an early end to their season.

Berdych

Novak Djokovic: Retired after the first set of his quarterfinal match against Berdych at Wimbledon, announced July 26 he was shutting it down for 2017.

Stan Wawrinka: After reaching the French Open final, lost first round at both Queen’s Club and Wimbledon. Announced Aug. 4 he was having a procedure on his knee and would be out for the remainder of 2017.

Kei Nishikori: Lost his first match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, then felt a “pop” in the wrist while practicing in Cincinnati. Announced Aug. 16 he was out for the season with a wrist issue, but was opting not to have surgery.

Andy Murray: Lost to Sam Querrey in five sets – the last two went 6-1, 6-1 – in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Pulled out of Beijing and Shanghai Sept. 6, and out of the Paris Masters Oct. 13, which basically ended his season.

Milos Raonic: Lost his first match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, pulled out of Cincinnati and the US Open. Underwent a procedure on his wrist, then returned for the ATP Tour event in Tokyo. Won his first match with a one-handed backhand, then withdrew before his second match with a calf issue. Raonic  withdrew from the final two events of the season earlier this week.

Andy Murray all but ends 2017 season

Save

NEW YORK – Andy Murray hasn’t officially ended his 2017 season.

But it appears almost certain we won’t see him again.

According to his Facebook post, the world No. 2 has turned the page on Beijing and Shanghai and – most likely – Vienna and Paris as well.

He joins Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori on the sidelines as the ATP Tour continues on to Asia and Europe this fall.

It would be interesting to know why the Brit hasn’t also officially announced his withdrawal from those last two events; there must be other factors involved.

Murray said he has 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,” he write.

Murray has already committed to the 2018 season-opening event in Brisbane, Australia, as announced Wednesday by the tournament (and by Murray).

That’s just four months away.

Brisbane tough at the top

The Brisbane event already landed Rafael Nadal. So it will be very strong at the top of the entry list as it completes with Doha (which has three times the prize money) and the old Chennai tournament, which recently announced it was relocating to Pune, India.

Roger Federer already has committed to playing the Hopman Cup again to start 2018.

It sure worked out well for him this year.

Murray will still play an exhibition with Federer in Glasgow Nov. 7 for charity, benefiting UNICEF UK and Sunny-sid3up.

It will be the first-ever trip to Scotland for Federer and people are likely to get quite excited in Murray’s homeland. That’s something he’s clearly willing to accept in the name of a good cause. πŸ™‚

Nadal wins, and has things to say

Save

NEW YORK – Rafael Nadal was down 3-5 in the first set of his first-round match against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia Tuesday, as the rain came down outside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

But safely ensconced under the $150 million roof, the new world No. 1 had no problem regaining his composure in a 7-6 (6), 6-2, 6-2 victory.

The Mallorcan and either Roger Federer or Frances Tiafoe, who play Tuesday night, will be safely through to the second round.

The rest of their half of the draw were left sodden or stuck in the locker room all day. Play on all the outside courts – including the matches in progress – was called just after 3 p.m.

On Murray’s late withdrawal

Afterwards, Nadal had some things to say – notably about No. 2 seed Andy Murray’s last-minute withdrawal from the tournament.

There’s a self-serving component to this, of course. No. 3 seed Roger Federer, who has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year and beaten Nadal three times, ended up in Nadal’s half of the draw.

Murray

Had Murray pulled out before Friday’s draw, Federer would have been seeded No. 2 and they would have been in opposite halves.

Nadal thought the decision was “strange”. He assumed, if Murray was on site practicing, it was because he was going to play.

“Was a little bit strange that he retired just the morning after the draw was made. Was something that is a little bit strange and difficult to understand, but the worst thing is, yeah, he is not healthy and I wish him a very fast recovery,” Nadal said. “Normally when you retire on – was Saturday morning? And the draw was made Friday? Normally you want to keep practicing, keep trying until the last moment. You don’t retire Saturday morning. You retire Monday morning or Sunday afternoon, not Saturday morning.”

Nadal said that if you don’t leave it to the very, very, very last minute, you do it before the draw is made. “But of course he has his reason, and for sure the negative – the only news and the negative news was that he will not be playing here,” he added.

Nadal

On the cacophony of Ashe

The 31-year-old also talked about how loud it gets on Arthur Ashe Stadium when the roof is closed. He said it was loud enough that he couldn’t even hear himself hitting the ball.

And this was a day session, when the patrons are less … well, refreshed and not as loud as they are at night.

“The energy and support of the crowd is massive. I enjoy it and I have unforgettable memories from this tournament and this court, because the energy is different from in other places. But at the same time is true that today, under the roof, was too much. Too much noise, no? I was not able to hear the ball when you are hitting, no?” Nadal said.

“So I don’t know. I understand it’s a show, at the end of the day, and I enjoy that. I feel part of this, of course, but under the roof, you know, we need to be a little bit more strict about the noise, in my opinion, no? Because all the noise stays inside, and this is difficult, no? With the roof open, feeling change a lot.”

Nadal said that there were times during the match when Nadal said he asked Lajovic (who was playing at a sprightly pace) to hold up on the serve. And Lajovic couldn’t hear him. “So difficult to analyze how the ball is coming when you are not hearing very well the sound of the opponent’s ball,” he said.

On being No. 1 at 31

Nadal said he had been practicing a lot better in New York than he had in Cincinnati in Montreal. In the two Masters 1000 events on hard courts this summer, he went down to defeat in surprising fashion.

But he says being No. 1, at his age, is a blessing. 
  

“And today, here I am at 31. If you tell me I will be here with 31 being No. 1 of the world – especially, seven, six, ten years ago – I will not believe you, so I try to enjoy every day without thinking much about what happened or what can happen,” he said.  “I just go day by day, week by week, and I am happy doing what I am doing today. I don’t know what gonna happen tomorrow, and in terms of my tennis career, I not thinking much. I’m not worried about when arrive the day that I have to say good-bye.”