It does appear to be a familiar tale for Andy Murray, at the moment, with the 35-year-old putting in Herculean displays only toget knocked out in the opening stages of a Grand Slam. This was seen again at the Australian Open after Murray spent over ten gruelling hours on the court to beat Thanasi Kokkinakis and Matteo Berrettini, only to lose to Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round.
Outright odds: no room for Murray
It should be said that no one was realistically expecting Murray to win the year’s first Grand Slam, with the latest odds on tennis’ Australian Open favouring Novak Djokovic to do that in the build-up – the Serb is now at a price of just 1/5, which shows how dominant he always is Down Under. However, after putting in such courageous displays in Melbourne, the hope was that Murray would be rewarded with a run deep into the tournament.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 21,
Needless to say, his third-round loss came as a crushing disappointment to everyone who had hoped he had turned a corner.
However, now that the dust has settled on his exit from the Australian Open, the question has to be: is this the right way to look at Murray’s progress following hip surgery?
The bigger picture
At least, has Murray shown that he has taken another positive step in the right direction and that the focus shouldn’t be totally results-oriented yet. Interestingly, doubles great Bob Bryan seems to think this is the case and has tipped Murray to be playing some of his best tennis at Wimbledon in 2023.
As far as authoritative voices on how hip surgery recovery goes and the timeline back to a player’s best, Bryan is undoubtedly someone to listen to given that he underwent a similar kind of surgery to Murray. In fact, it was Bryan who advised Murray to go under the knife in order to give himself one last chance of returning to the professional circuit following a recurrence of the same problem. With this being the case, Bryan’s encouraging words on Murray’s situation do help to look at the picture with a greater perspective.
— US Open
Tennis (@usopen) November 20,
In particular, Bryan’s thoughts on how a player has to learn to get the balance right between having what is in effect, one new hip and one old hip are incredibly insightful. Again, if we were to look back on Murray’s performances in Melbourne, there is cause for genuine optimism about the year ahead as the Scot showed a greater improvement in his movement. In other words, Murray looked far more in sync with his body which suggests that he is beginning to feel at ease with the changes that have taken place.
The fire to win still burns fiercely in Murray
Another promising sign on top of better flexibility is that Murray still has the stamina to do battle with the world’s best. This was emphatically illustrated during a 4 am finish when he beat Kokkinakis after a game that lasted five hours and 45 minutes.
So, with the hunger and fitness to remain competitive and now with an improvement in his physical movement, could this be the year where Murray rolls back the clock? All eyes will be on SW19 in the summer of 2023 where big things are predicted for the determined Scot.