Becker: Andy Murray can get back to the top but demands of tennis must be managed

Kevin Palmer

The 2017 tennis season will be remembered as the year that saw a host of star names slide out of the limelight as they succumbed to injuries, with the demanding nature of the tennis tour taking its toll on some of the sport’s biggest icons.

A new-look line-up at the ATP World Tour finals in London reflected a dramatic change in the pecking order at the top of the men’s game, with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Rafael Nadal among those struck down by an injury curse for long periods.

Calls for changes to be made to the tennis calendar to alleviate the pressures placed on the bodies of the game’s established stars have been aired time and again in recent years, with Boris Becker telling Tennis365 that maturity brings challenges that all players need to conquer.

“You only have one body and when you are 18, it feels like this body is indestructible,” states Becker. “You can go out and play for ten hours a day on the court and wake up the next morning feeling great, but you feel it changing when you get to about 27, 28.

“Then you start to feel the aches and the pains, the back hurts, the knees hurt sometimes. That is when you have to manage your schedule and work out what is best for you to try and challenge for the tournaments that matter most.

“That is what I had to do at the end of my career and it is difficult. Sometimes you want to play because it is a favourite tournament or a sponsor wants you to play and you make the wrong decision, but this when you have to be sensible.

“I look at Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer now and they are managing this so well. They have had injury problems, but are playing better than ever well into their 30s.

“This should encourage a guy like Andy Murray to believe he can come back and perform at the very top again if he gets the right medical advice, but dealing with the hip injury he has can be difficult.”

Sports injury specialist Matty Radcliffe has worked with some of the biggest names across a variety of sports and he suggests the demands on a tennis player put huge strains on joints as a player edges towards the latter stages of his career.

“I have worked with a lot of footballers and the training they would need to do to reach peak performance is very different to tennis,” states the former Southampton and Manchester United injury prevention specialist, who has also worked as a personal consultant to top players Luke Shaw and Robin van Persie.

“The stop start nature of tennis throws up issues. Footballers will tend have a steadier work rate and the explosive starting and stopping movement with not be as frequent as it is in tennis, where you will get that kind of impact on the body virtually every point.

“What it means is top tennis players have to adapt their training to ensure the body is ready to absorb this kind of impact.”

Federer’s decision to miss the entire clay court season for a second successive season was inevitable after the success of that scheduling approach last year allowed the 36-year-old to stroll to victory at Wimbledon.

Meanwhile, former world No.1 Andy Murray is striving to recovery from hip surgery in January in time to take his place in the field for Wimbledon, yet the words of Becker should ring in his ear if he is tempted to try and make a comeback before his body is ready.

Murray may be desperate to make his comeback at Wimbledon at the start of July, but rushing a return could be fatal to his hopes of adding to his haul of three Grand Slam titles.

Kevin Palmer (@RealKevinPalmer)

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