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Sir Andy Murray Isn’t Ready To Put His Grass Tennis Shoes Away Just Yet • By Alix Ramsay

Andy Murray of Britain attends a press conference after losing his men's singles first round match against Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 15 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LYNN BO BO
Andy Murray of Britain attends a press conference after losing his men’s singles first round match against Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 15 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LYNN BO BO

 

 

Hold your horses, put the tributes on pause and pack away those boxes of Kleenex: the Andy Murray story may not be over yet.

 

Now, the odds are that Scotland’s finest and Britain’s hero is heading for retirement. His right hip is shot to pieces and no matter that he has worked himself narrow to fix the problem, it still hurts like hell. He did everything the doctors and the physios told him for the last 20 months and yet when he tried to go back to work with a proper training block over Christmas, nothing had changed. He was pretty much back to square one – hip hurting, movement restricted, chances of competing fully and regularly almost nil.

 

But the thing about our Andy is that he never knows when he is beaten. It has been the foundation of his career from the moment he picked up a tennis racket.

 

There he was as a scrawny 18-year-old, all wild hair and baggy shorts and only a handful of months into his professional career, when he faced the mighty Roger Federer in the Bangkok final.

 

He lost, all right, but it was close. Closer than anyone had thought possible (this was 2005 when beating Rodge was thought of as blasphemy). Was he overawed? No. Was he overwhelmed? No. Was he taken aback by what the great Fed could do with bat and ball? No, not really. Fed was very good but he was not scary. And then Muzz beat him nine months later when they next met. Muzz is like that.

 

Move on 14 years and Muzz is treating his gammy hip in much the same manner. He is contemplating having the same surgery that Bob Bryan had last summer: a hip resurfacing procedure. When he first told us about this last Friday, he said it was mainly to ensure that he had a better quality of life. At the moment he can’t even walk his dogs without wincing while playing golf or having a five-a-side kick about (it’s a footy thing) is impossible. With two young daughters, he wants to do all the fun stuff any dad would want to do with his kids – and that is not possible with that dodgy hip.

 

Andy Murray hold his hip while in action during a practice session for the Australian Open at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, 12 January 2019. EPA-EFE/JULIAN SMITH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Andy Murray hold his hip while in action during a practice session for the Australian Open at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, 12 January 2019. EPA-EFE/JULIAN SMITH

When he told us this, we all nodded sympathetically. But then he played Roberto Bautista Agut on Monday night and took the infuriatingly consistent Spaniard to five remarkable sets. For a couple of sets, Muzz looked laboured and in pain but then the old fire returned, the instinct kicked in and he took us on a trip down memory lane. There was the craft and anticipation, there was the guile and the outrageous winners, there was Muzz spinning his web and drawing his prey into the centre of it. It was fabulous to watch and only in the fifth set, when his hip had all but given out, did he fade.

 

The crowd loved every moment – they did not want to see their favourite Pom limp off into the sunset. But then, in the on-court interview, he gave them hope.

 

“Maybe I’ll see you again,” he said. “I’ll do everything possible to try. If I want to go again, I’ll need to have a big operation where there are no guarantees I will be able to come back from. I will give it my best shot.”

 

This was only mildly embarrassing for the good people of Tennis Australia who had put together a tribute montage with the likes of Fed and Djoko wishing their old rival well in his new life of carpet slippers, crosswords and daytime TV (retirement, even when you are older, doesn’t sound like much fun). It was a lovely little film but it looked like it was just a bit previous. He might not be going after all.

 

The big decision for the Muzz is whether to have the op now and maybe have the chance to play again in the future or whether to delay surgery, play a final time at Wimbledon and then have the op. If he goes for the latter option, he will definitely call time on his career. But if he has the op now….

 

“If I want to play Wimbledon one last time for certain, then I take the next four to five months off and finish there and have the operation after that and stop,” he said to the BBC. “It’s difficult. I always wanted to finish playing at Wimbledon. But there’s a bit of me that obviously….I love playing. I want to keep playing tennis but I can’t do that with the hip I have just now.

 

“So the only option, if I want to do that, is to have the surgery but I know that there’s a strong possibility that I won’t be able to come back and play after that.

 

“But it’s my only option if I want to try and play again for longer than one event, like at Wimbledon. That’s a decision I have to make and I’ll chat with my family and my team about that.”

 

Suddenly it sounds as if our boy is leaning towards an early operation to see if he can prolong his career with the added bonus that if he can’t play on then, at least, he will have a pain-free hip and be able to put his socks on unaided. Less than a week ago, that plan was the other way around: socks were the priority, playing on was just a vague dream.

 

He knows that his chances of success are slim to minimal. But we all know that if you give Muzz the merest hint of a chance, he will bust a gut to make it work. If he does come back, that means that he will have to announce his eventual retirement again – and when that happens, Tennis Australia have a nice little video montage on file to mark the occasion. It sounds like a win-win scenario.

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