As Andy Murray ponders whether to have a potentially a career-saving operation on his hip, he must consider new approaches to both his game and fitness.
What mistakes did Andy Murray make?
If he is to learn to from one mistake, it would be the fact that he overplayed and pushed his body over the edge.
Prior to his hip operation a year ago, he had overplayed the season he became world No 1, and arguably the season before that too, he shattered his hip.
During the 2016 season in particular, he loaded his campaign at the backend of the year as he chased down the year-end No 1 ranking.
Then during the ATP Finals, when he went head-to-head with Novak Djokovic for the No 1 spot, he got entangled in long gruelling affairs, with long baseline rallies that ultimately took its toll on the Briton.
Taking a leaf out of Roger Federer’s book
Swiss legend Roger Federer is six years older than the Brit and he is still going strong. So, how has the 37-year-old been able to look after his body so well?
Simple. Federer carefully picks and chooses his favourite events.
This way he is able to conserve his energy, spend time with his family and is fresh for when his desired tournaments come around.
Murray’s favourite time of year has to be the grass-court season with Wimbledon and Queens top of the list.
Now in his thirties, the Brit no longer needs a loaded schedule.
Skip the clay-court season
If he comes back to the sport, Murray should aim to copy Federer again and skip the clay-court season.
It is the French Open 2017 semi-final match against Stan Wawrinka where they bludgeoned each other to pieces that left Wawrinka with an injured knee and Murray with more aches to the hip. Both are still suffering the effects of that gruelling affair.
The clay will always be much more damaging on the back, knee and hips for older players. It would be wise to take this thee-month block of the season off and train lightly, or be with his family.
Train less, utilise talent and experience
Federer openly admits to not training some days and going into his match full of energy and relying on his instincts. This is a vital strategy Murray should adopt.
Of course, playing less tournaments won’t help his ranking and may give him tougher draws, but Murray’s pure talent alone and sheer experience, can overwhelm most players in the top 100.
The evidence for this was showcased against Spain’s Bautista-Agut at the Australian Open. Even in pain and with an injured hip, he was still able to roar back from two sets to love down and level the match, pushing it a fifth set.
That effort was unbelievable considering Bautista-Agut is a top 20 player, potentially top 10 and one of the fittest players on the Tour currently.
Going toe-to-toe with players of that ilk shows that Murray should not throw the towel in just yet, but have more faith in his ability.
Keep points short and sweet
Murray is one of the most tactical and astute players on the Tour. However, the long baseline exchanges and swivelling when returning have all played havoc on his hip.
Murray should seek to shorten the points and try to get matches finished as quickly as possible so that he can get off the court and maximise his recovery.
Federer and Rafael Nadal sometimes win matches within an hour and half in straight sets, in Grand Slams and the best-of-three Masters 1000 events.
Murray should also add new strokes to his play, like Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro have done that will help preserve his body for the challenges that lie ahead.
Supremacy of the top four
Murray must have more faith in his ability. Even on one leg sometimes Nadal is too strong for most players. The top four still have the knowhow and experience to win Grand Slams.
Murray should know it just takes one tournament where the others are off form and he may be able to win say a Queens or Wimbledon again.
He has the experience of going deep in Grand Slams that most average tennis players don’t have and that should be a huge advantage.
Alexander Zverev, although talented, is yet to master the best-of-five set format and go deep at a Grand Slam.
So, if Murray does opt for the hip surgery and can stay healthy and fresh, he has every chance of smiling again and lifting the trophies that matter most to him.
Follow James Spencer on Twitter.
Boris Becker on Andy Murray.
Derek Bilton previews this week’s ATP Tour events.
Tennis Today features visas and horse racing.
Gael Monfils is on a roll.
Happy days again for Kiki Bertens.
A second ATP Tour singles title for Kyle Edmund.
Kyle Edmund’s fine run sees him reach NY Open final.
Your dream pairings for Tokyo 2020’s mixed doubles event.
Your 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships draw…
It’s Felix vs Gael in Rotterdam final.