Andy Murray will return to competitive action this week after spending seven months on the sidelines and is already looking ahead to the remaining Grand Slam events this season.
Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion, was set to make his latest injury comeback in March before tennis was shutdown due to the coronavirus crisis and he has not played in a competitive environment since briefly featuring for Great Britain in November’s Davis Cup Finals.
The wait for British fans to see the former world No. 1 will end on Tuesday, when he takes on Liam Broady at the Battle of the Brits – an all-British exhibition event organised by his brother Jamie Murray.
Should all go to plan at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton this week, Murray will then target a comeback on the ATP Tour, which resumes in August.
There’s a congested schedule, with the US Open and French Open as well as Masters 1000 events in New York, Madrid and Rome all sandwiched into a seven-week period.
World No. 129 Murray would require a wildcard to qualify for the Slams but that is unlikely to be an issue, while it’s also likely he would make the cut due to other players withdrawing.
‘My hip’s been feeling better, probably the last three or four weeks. It feels better than in March,’ said Murray.
Tim Henman group
Greg Rusedski group
‘I was going to go and play in Miami to see whether or not I was going to have an operation, or exactly what I was going to need to do. Maybe I would have played the event in Miami and it would have been fine, but it was more sort of a test.
‘Whereas now I feel a little bit more confident in it, because I’ve had more training under my belt, more practice. In March time, I’d probably only have been practising for four or five weeks since, obviously, I had the issues in November, December.’
Murray added: ‘I think the schedule is tricky. I understand the reasons why it’s like that, but I don’t understand exactly which tournaments I will or won’t play.
‘The Grand Slams will be my priority, to play in those ones. But, in terms of what I would do in the lead-up to them, I’m not sure.’
It will be a very different experience for players in New York, with the United States Tennis Association adopting measures to decrease the risk of coronavirus spreading – a particularly hot topic given Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour fiasco.
‘The proposals that the USTA have made, I don’t know if all of them are set in stone. They seemed to have changed quite a bit over the last couple of weeks,’ said Murray.
Tuesday 23 June: J. Murray/Skupski v Broady/Norrie, Edmund v Ward, Evans v Clarke, Murray v Broady, Draper/Edmund v Clarke/Inglot
Wednesday 24 June: Broady v Ward, O’Mara/Salisbury v Clarke/Inglot, Norrie v Draper, Edmund v Murray, Broady/Norrie v Evans/Glasspool
Thursday 25 June: Salisbury/O’Mara v Draper/Edmund, Evans v Norrie, Clarke v Draper, Murray v Ward, J. Murray/Skupski v Evans/Glasspool
‘I don’t mind what the situation is, providing it’s safe. If I was told I could take one person with me, for example, you can make that work. I would probably go with a physio in that situation, with some coaching done remotely.
‘That’s not a perfect situation, obviously. To prepare for a grand slam, you’d probably be over there for three to four weeks beforehand, with no coaching input in your practices or anything. So, from a performance perspective, that’s tricky.
‘But I also appreciate that these are unprecedented times, so you have to make do with what’s possible. That sort of thing wouldn’t bother me much. For me it’s more about the safety.
‘And, also, in a bubble – if that’s what people are doing – what’s the punishment for people who are not sticking to the rules there that have been put in place?
‘You imagine a situation where you’re in the last stages of the US Open but, because someone’s gone out [of] that bubble and broken those rules and gone into Manhattan or done something he shouldn’t have been doing, and you then contract the virus and are not able to compete in, you know, the quarter-finals and semis of the US Open. It would be extremely frustrating.
‘So how do they police that exactly? I don’t know how they go about it.’
There have been strict social-distancing measures in place ahead of the Battle of the Brits this week, where Murray has been winding up his compatriots by faking an ab injury.
His first opponent Broady said: ‘You can never tell when he’s being serious or sarcastic or when he’s trying to wind you up.
‘A few days ago he said he was pulling out of the tournament because he’d torn an ab, which was completely bogus – he’d made it up to wind everyone up. At this point, no, I don’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth whether it’s true or not.’
Murray kept up the pretence that he was withdrawing from the tournament for an hour.
‘He sort of just dropped it in there and moved onto the next topic and everyone was like, “Wait, are you being serious? Are you actually playing or not?” It took about an hour for him to admit, “Yeah, I just made it up’.
‘This [Whatsapp] group chat is mental, it’s all mind games. Everyone is saying all sorts. It’ll make it more interesting, that’s for sure.’
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