Murray on the right path after two clutch victories

It appeared, late into the night on Monday at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., and after a long day of waiting, that Andy Murray’s return to action was going to be dealt a setback.

Down a set to young American Mackenzie McDonald, his groundstrokes short and his fuse even shorter, the former world No. 1 appeared on his way out.

But somehow, through a nervy second set and through six blown match points at the very end, Murray closed it out at 12:47 a.m.

On Wednesday, facing the current British No. 1 and No. 4 seed Kyle Edmund in the second round, he had to rise to another big challenge. 

It was one he had already dealt with in his first, brief attempt at a return at Queen’s Club in June. In the second round there, Edmund had posted his first victory over Murray after two losses.

This time, Murray showed his quality in a 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-4 win over the world No. 18.

Murray

And now, it gets interesting.

He faces unseeded Marius Copil of Romania in the third round, after Copil upset No. 14 seed Jérémy Chardy of France in straight sets.

Already, Murray’s ranking has zoomed from its current No. 838 to an unofficial No. 511 with the victory. A win over Copil, and he’ll be about No. 375.

That number doesn’t matter, of course. Murray already has a wild card into next week’s Rogers Cup in Toronto. And he’s likely to get wild cards wherever he needs them, on his path back to the top after hip surgery in January.

Marked difference in presence

The thing about Edmund, as good as he is, is that he almost leaves no imprint upon the matches he plays. That’s not a knock, more an acknowledgement of the fact that he’s just a very quiet man who goes about his business, without a lot of flash or dash.

On Wednesday, Edmund was sort of the canvas, while Murray chucked cans of paint at it to create a colourful piece of art.

Murray was at his chuntering … best … Worst?

Murray

It’s an acquired taste, although it’s always fun to use the word “chuntering” (In Murray’s native land, they use “channer”).

The constant grumbling is classic Murray. For whatever reason, he doesn’t get a lot of stick about how he celebrates his opponents’ errors. Perhaps people understand him well enough by now to have an idea of who he is, and how gracious he is in both wins and losses.

Murray
(Oops. Slipped. Killer humidity).

The brutally hot weather got a few people on Wednesday.

But these two did their level best to push it aside.

While Murray’s movement looked better than it did Monday, he’s obviously still being somewhat careful.

His serve isn’t anywhere near the velocity it was at his peak, either.

And it’s hard to tell if he’s feeling the hip or not.

Like many tennis players, Murray looks like he can barely walk or his feet are on fire between points – only to rev up the jets when he has to run. 

But Murray willed himself to win this one. Not that you needed him to tell you that he’s highly motivated to make it back. He sat, annoyed and frustrated, on the sidelines long enough to give him all the fire he needs to make this happen.

(Screenshots from TennisTV.com)

In the end, Andy Murray is out

WIMBLEDON – Andy Murray tried to be ready for the tournament that means the most to him.

But it seems he ran out of time.

Scheduled to play Benoit Paire of France on Tuesday, Murray pulled the plug Sunday – just a day after indications were that he intended to give it a go.

The best-of-five set format probably was the deciding factor.

Jason Jung of Taiwan (via Torrance, California) will be the lucky loser who takes Murray’s spot in the draw.

“It is with heavy heart that I’m announcing that ‘ll be withdrawing from Wimbledon this year,” he wrote on Facebook.

“I’ve made significant progress in practice and matches over the last ten days, but after lengthy discussions with my team, we’ve decided that playing best of five-set matches might be a bit too soon in the recovery process. We did everything we could to try to be ready in time.”

Highlight of Murray’s season

This is the heart tournament for Murray, who experienced unfathomable pressure every time Wimbledon rolled around, to be the one to break the jinx that had lasted more than 70 years for British players at their home Slam.

Finally, he did it.

And he’s said he always felt a special sort of nervousness, anticipation before this fortnight.

Here’s how he looked Saturday, when he played a practice set with Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.

The Brit played Wimbledon a year ago, knowing he wasn’t in good enough shape to go five sets. And not only did he not win, he ended up not playing the rest of the season. That had to have factored in.

Murray also wrote that he would start practicing on the hard courts right on Monday, with a view to a full return during the U.S. (and Canada) hard-court season.

He has signed on for the ATP 500 level event in Washington, D.C., And he also received a wild card into the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

Meanwhile, he’s for hire.

 

A post shared by Andy Murray (@andymurray) on

No shortage of takers already.  

 

Andy Murray returns after 342 days

If you wanted an ideal set of circumstances to maximize the impact of favorite Brit Andy Murray’s return to tennis after nearly a year, you couldn’t have asked for better.

The 31-year-old playing at home in London, on grass, before a packed house at Queen’s Club nearly unanimously on his side.

And he also was playing Nick Kyrgios.

Murray had never lost to Kyrgios, with whom he has a very congenial rookie-veteran relationship. And very nearly defeated him again.

In the end, the 23-year-old Aussie prevailed 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5.

Murray

“I thought I did okay. I certainly could have done some stuff better, at the beginning of the second set I thought my level at times was good; sometimes not so good,” Murray told the media after the match.

“I’m really happy that I got on the match court today and played. It was a close decision. I have not been practising loads at all … I really haven’t played a whole lot of tennis, so I’m happy I got out there and competed and performed respectably.” 

Murray’s double fault was an anticlimactic ending to a match that had far more drama than you might have expected, on some unexpected levels.

A whole lotta chuntering

MurrayBoth players were in peak form in terms of the regular exchanges with their supporters. The Brits have a perfect word for this: chuntering.

There was a whole lot of chuntering, with Kyrgios making clear that whatever was ailing him, it hurt and that he was unclear on quite what to do.

He was waging his own internal battle in addition to dealing with a hip issue.

MurrayKyrgios was trying to beat Murray for the first time in his career. He was wrestling with the possibility of losing to a player who was playing his first match in forever.

Or perhaps with not wanting to show up a player he has a lot of respect for, had Murray’s form not been up to it.

And perhaps he was going back on forth on how his body might hold up even if he did win. To defeat Murray, then withdraw before the next match would be unfortunate for both.

“It was strange because on big points, when I won them, I almost felt bad if I showed any emotion. Like I didn’t really want to get into his grill at all,” Kyrgios said. “But the whole time, it was kind of good to see him back out there, but it was a very awkward match for me because I was thinking the guy hadn’t played a match in a year, and I was getting smoked in the first set. I was, like, this is not going to be a good look if I lose this match.”

Kyrgios has doubles on the docket with his Davis Cup captain, the “retired” Lleyton Hewitt, this week.

My hip’s worse than your hip

MurrayIt was Kyrgios who looked the worse for wear out on the court. It was Kyrgios who limped off after the victory.

“Two-all in the first set, I split-stepped and my hip kind of pinched a little bit and I was dealing with a little bit of pain for the whole match as ridiculous as that sounds because the guy was out from a hip injury (surgery),” Kyrgios said

MurrayAs for Murray? Well, he grabbed his back a few times – a common occurrence for any player getting his body used to the low-bouncing grass.

He actually looked pretty good. But the big test, after a match lasting two hours, 40 minutes, will be how he feels Wednesday morning.

He told the media afterwards that he was uncertain about his next move.

‘I won’t rule anything out just now. I won’t rule out playing Eastbourne and not playing Wimbledon. And I wouldn’t rule out not playing a tournament next week and trying to get matches like in an exhibition tournament, as well, to get ready for Wimbledon,” he said. “‘I’ll kind of need to wait and see what happens the next few days and chat with my team about that, because I don’t know exactly what’s best for me just now.”

Had Murray won, he would have faced a juicy (and too premature) matchup against the current British No. 1, Kyle Edmund.

Instead, it will be Kyrgios against Edmund in a clash of old junior rivals just three months apart in age, and four spots apart in the ATP Tour rankings.

(Screenshots from TennisTV)

ATP Rankings Report – June 11, 2018

At the top of the rankings, the news is that by defending his French Open title, Rafael Nadal will remain No. 1.

Because he had such an off-the-charts clay-court season a year ago, and because he and Roger Federer are so close, points-wise, he went into nearly every tournament during the spring defending that honor.

And he did.

They remain just 100 points apart, with Federer defending last year’s title at Wimbledon, and Nadal defending only round-of-16 points.

On the flip side, check out the two big names at the bottom of the tumblers’ list. Crazy times.

(Check out the ATP Tour website for the full rankings picture).

ON THE UPSWING

rankingsJuan Martin del Potro (ARG): No. 6 ———–> No. 4 (Before his body gave out, the Argentine had a great French Open. And he matches a career high reached all the way back in January, 2010.

Diego Schwartzman (ARG): No. 12 ———–> No. 11 (A career high for the 25-year-old, after a great stay in Paris).

Fabio Fognini (ITA): No. 18 ———–> No. 15 (The Italian’s highest ranking in nearly four years).

Denis Shapovalov (CAN): No. 25 ———–> No. 23 (Another career high for the Canadian teenager, who starts his grass-court season in Stuttgart Monday).

Marco Cecchinato (GER): No. 72 ———–> No. 27 (A breakout event for the Italian, and now he’ll be seeded at Wimbledon, much to his amusement).

Maximilian Marterer (GER): No. 70 ———–> No. 50 (The 22-year-old impressed in defeating Denis Shapovalov and having a nice run in Paris, on his way to a career best).

Mischa Zverev (GER): No. 64 ———–> No. 54

Gilles Simon (FRA): No. 65 ———–> No. 55

Jeremy Chardy (FRA): No. 86———–> No. 72 (A winner at the Surbiton Challenger)

Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA): No. 87 ———–> No. 77 (A third-round effort in singles – and a cherished doubles title at his home Slam and a return to the top 10).

Matteo Berrettini (ITA): No. 96 ———–> No. 80 (A career high for the 22-year-old from Rome)

Alex de Minaur (AUS): No. 105 ———–> No. 96  (The 19-year-old Aussie jumps into the top 100).

Jaume Munar (ESP): No. 155———–> No. 104 (The 21-year-old from Spain impressed in his Roland Garros debut, qualifying and beating countryman David Ferrer in five sets. Then, last week, he won the Prostejov Challenger to follow up).

Bernard Tomic (AUS): No. 206 ———–> No. 181

ON THE DOWNSWING

rankingsRoberto Bautista Agut (ESP): No. 13 ———–> No. 16 (A tough Roland for the Spaniard, who lost his mother just a week before the tournament began. But he showed grit and perseverance).

Milos Raonic (CAN): No. 28 ———–> No. 35 (Raonic missed Rome and the French Open. On the plus side, he’s back this week on the grass).

Gael Monfils (FRA): No. 37 ———–> No. 43

Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR): No. 55———–> No. 62 (Dropping, and pulling out of tournaments again).

Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO): No. 77 ———–> No. 87

Jiri Vesely (CZE): No. 80 ———–> No. 106

Andy Murray (GBR): No. 47 ———–> No. 157 (That’s pretty insane – lowest since July 2005, when he was just 18).

Stan Wawrinka (SUI): No. 30———–> No. 263 (If you thought that was insane … Wawrinka’s lowest ranking since Aug. 2003, when he also was just 18).

The Brotherhood of the (Two) Traveling Lederhosen

Winning the ATP Tour event in Munich is good.

Getting a sweet ride – a BMW i8 roadster – is even better.

The only condition is … you’ve got to put on the lederhosen.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev knows the drill.

With a 6-3, 6-3 victory over two-time champion Philipp Kohlschreiber Sunday, he repeated as champion.

That means two vehicles – and another pair of lederhosen.

(FYI – the retail price of the car starts at … $163,300 US. You can add a $2,500 brake package and $6,300 laser headlights. At that point, might as well, right?)

Zverev lost the first set he played on the week, to countryman Yannick Hanfmann. But he wasn’t troubled the rest of the way. His four victories included an impressive 7-5, 6-2 dispatching of fellow youngster Hyeon Chung of Korea.

This time, the white one

lederhosen

It’s pretty much a first-world problem to already have one major sports car, so the biggest concern is not getting another one in the same colour.

Seriously, isn’t that annoying?

A year ago, the merchant of speed was black.

Fashion-forward in München

If you thought they just stored away the lederhosen for a year until the next edition of the tournament, think again.

Zverev now boasts two pairs, similar, but not identical.

lederhosen

The best part is how the winner did the quick-change right on the court before thousands of fans, and tournament director Patrick Kuhnen peeking over the makeshift change room.

lederhosen
(The on-court change room is a concept that has GOT to find more uses. It might save a lot of time on those endless bathroom breaks, allegedly for ‘change of attire’,and stop us from questioning the TRUE MOTIVES!)

The new tradition of the lederhosen began in 2015, when Andy Murray (who’d probably fancy a kilt, to be honest) needed three hours to defeat Kohlschreiber 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 7-6 (7-4) to win his first career clay-court title at age 27.

It was also the first clay-court title by a Brit in nearly 40 years. So it was certainly worth a pair of lederhosen.

He doesn’t look embarrassed in the least. Then again, he has posed in this

lederhosen
Andy Murray won it in 2015, inaugurating the very German tradition.

Kohlschreiber, who kind of looks a wee bit sheepish most of the time (that’s just his face), didn’t look sheepish at all when he posed for his trophy shot.

In fact, he looked very at home. He really could model in a lederhosen catalogue.

lederhosen
Philipp Kohlschreiber was spared the change of attire when he won it in 2012. But in 2015, when he repeated as champion, he was probably happy to put them on.

The legend of the lederhosen probably guarantees that Rafael Nadal will never play Munich.

NO chance he gets into those without splitting the seams .

Duelling lederhosen

But hmmmmm … Hold the phone.

Now, we’ll grant you it’s a small sample size. But it appears there are two different pairs of lederhosen. So they must rotate them.

But it appears they are indeed recycled.

You have to think they dry-clean them in between, right?

Next year, we suggest the full look – with suspenders. They’re on sale, too.

lederhosen

 

After hip surgery, Andy Murray out until June

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.

Murray, Nishikori out. The rest? Maybes

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 Gaël 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

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

“I’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 “uncertain for Oz” list

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:

“I 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.

“I 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

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.

“I’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 resumé. 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.