Comment: How much agony can Andy Murray take before he finally admits defeat?
Yet another hammer blow has crashed into Andy Murray’s battered flesh.
In a repeat of the story that has halted Murray’s attempts to revive his career over the last four years, injury has deprived him of the chance to make a statement of intent at the Miami Open this week after a groin injury he is struggling to explain forced him to pull out on the eve of the event.
Murray declared himself to be “really gutted” by his latest injury setback, yet this blow feels even more crushing than some that went before as it may be a sign that his body is no longer willing to allow him to pursue his sporting dream.
Murray has openly admitted that the threat of retirement and the idleness that he believes would follow is one of the primary reasons why he continues to fight against increasingly unlikely odds to return to the top of the game.
Yet he told Tennis365 in November 2019 that those fears had been diluted by his time away from the court, as he suggested he will be able to cope with a life away from competitive tennis when the moment comes.
“I don’t think sport, as a whole, does a very good job of preparing people for what happens after retirement,” stated Murray. “We have seen it with a lot of footballers in this country and there are also cases of some big problems for athletes in America who struggle to cope when their career ends.
“It’s not just me, but a lot of athletes have to dedicate their whole life to reach the top. No one really knows what they want to do when they are 14 or 15, but I left home at that age to go to Spain for training with the sole aim of playing professional tennis.
“I achieved a lot of my goals and then last year it felt like my body didn’t want to let me continue any more and it was coming to an end. That was a fear for me. It was a case of ‘what do I do with myself’.
“Tennis has given me a structure in my life for as long as I can remember and if that’s gone, what happens next? This is all I’ve known and I didn’t know what I would do without it.
“Then I had this operation, the pain was gone and it changed everything for me. My priorities shifted and the ambition now is to be healthy and pain-free. If that is the case, I will lead a happy life and enjoy it.
“I got to feel what it was like for three or four months to see what life would be like if I wasn’t playing tennis any more and it was all good, so I’m not worried if I had to stop now. If I get another injury, I’ll probably call it a day and I’d be fine with that now.”
It remains to be seen whether Murray stands by those comments, as the levels of desire he has shown in the months since he spoke to Tennis365 at the launch of his Amazon Prime documentary ‘Resurfacing’ suggests his eagerness to continue his career burns as brightly as ever.
Yet after this latest blow, his stated dream of winning Wimbledon for a third time seemingly fanciful for a former world No 1 who has played just 40 matches at ATP Tour level since his 2017 Wimbledon quarter-final defeat against Sam Querrey in July 2017.
Hip surgery, relentless battles with his body and incredible willpower have taken this father of four to the point where he believed he was ready to compete again in an ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami this week, but that opportunity has been snatched from him once again.
Asked whether this latest blow could be a sign that his body simply is not up to it, he said: “I guess it’s possible that is the case. I really need to get a run of tournaments and competitive matches to see whether my body is capable of doing it or not, because right now I still really haven’t had that opportunity.
“I really just want to be on the court competing. I can’t be bothered doing another eight or 10 weeks of rehab. The reason I am doing all of that stuff is to get back on the court and compete.
“It’s hard work and now I am finding it harder to get motivated to do all the rehab and everything if I’m not going to be able to compete in the biggest events.”
How long can this 33-year-old continue to push against a tide of resistance that appears to be telling him his time is up?
The answer to that question can only be delivered by Murray, but he has suggested in the past that Wimbledon will be the location where he would choose to finish his career and with a crowd expected to be in attendance at this summer’s Championships, the most successful British player of this century is unlikely to walk away before then.
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