Andy Murray has been forced to give in to his back problem and will undergo surgery next week to cure the condition.
With only seven weeks of the tennis season to run, it is unlikely the 26-year-old Scot will play again this year.
The Wimbledon champion has been trying to manage his back issues for almost two years. But after aggravating the injury last week at a Davis Cup match in Croatia, he has opted for surgery in a bid to get to the root cause.
The decision will give him more than three months to recover and prepare for the Australian Open in January.
A statement from his management company, 77, said: “Next week, Andy is set to undergo minor back surgery in an effort to clear up a long-standing back problem.
“The issue flared up again during the Rome Masters this year when Andy was forced to retire and he sought advice from a range of specialists in May.
“After a successful return on the more forgiving grass courts, Andy enjoyed success at Queen’s and Wimbledon, but after recently playing on hard-courts and clay, Andy once again sought medical advice about solving the issue once and for all. The aim is to be fully fit for the new season.”
Murray had been due to start a three-event Asian tour next week, taking in tournaments in Bangkok and Tokyo before the Shanghai Masters next month.
That trip has now been cancelled and while he has not pulled out of the ATP World Tour Finals in London just yet, it is unlikely he will take part. The Tour Finals in November are for the world’s top eight men, so every round is like playing a grand slam semi or better.
If Murray has not lifted a racket in earnest for two months by then, he will not be match fit and is unlikely to go along to make up the numbers in a competition he is unable to win
Dr Angus Hunter, senior lecturer in exercise physiology at Stirling University’s sports school, said Murray’s rapid physical development could be part of his problem. He said: “Andy has developed himself quite dramatically over the past few years so his muscle structure has adapted. But sometimes when you have these changes, working at optimum level, the body is being pushed so much that some areas become too tight or there might be some neural-impingement.
“When this happens, the problem has to be dealt with.”
Murray’s back problems first emerged at the Tour Finals in 2011 when he limped out after a first round defeat. At the time, he would not reveal what troubled him. But the next summer he admitted he needed eight painkilling injections in his lower back to get him through the French Open, Wimbledon, the Olympics and US Open.
The world No3 has never revealed details of his injury although he admitted feeling shooting pains running up and down his left leg – similar to sciatica. Playing on clay, where he has to hit a lot of high balls and twist and turn on the loose, grit surface, worsens the problem.
Trying to avoid surgery at first, Murray’s team devised a training programme to strengthen the site of the injury. That worked short term but as soon as he started to play on clay this year, the old issues returned. Pulling out of the French Open allowed him to recover in time for the grass court season but the quick turnaround from the hard courts of the US Open to the clay in Croatia proved the last straw.
Leading Britain’s Davis Cup team back to the world group was his last outing for 2013. He was in pain in his first match but gritted his teeth and fought on to win three matches in three days.
Comic relief as Andy and Kim visit filming of Mock the Week
Andy Murray has shown he is game for a laugh with a visit to his favourite television show.
He took girlfriend Kim Sears to watch filming in London of comedy panel show Mock the Week. And he filmed scenes for a Sport Relief edition of the BBC show due to be aired next year.
Murray has said he watched Mock the Week to relax during tournaments. He last appeared as an audience member on the show in 2012 just days after his defeat to Roger Federer in his first Wimbledon final.
This time round, he was all smiles and posed for pictures with host Dara O’Briain, and panelists Andy Parsons, Hugh Dennis and Ed Byrne.
Later Murray said: “Had great fun at a Mock the Week filming. They went relatively easy on me thankfully, love that show.”
The episode was shown last night and the Sport Relief show will be shown next spring.
On the eve of Wimbledon this year Murray told how he watched Mock the Week instead of a documentary on himself which saw him break down talking about the Dunblane massacre. He said: “I’m always nervous the night before a tournament and this time there was also a bit of build-up to the documentary that went out.
“We recorded it and I’ll definitely have a look at some stage. But I watched Mock the Week instead. The perfect preparation.”
Ace tweets: I’ll be ‘back’
Last night, Andy Murray sent a tweet to his 2,160,000 followers worldwide, thanking them for their messages wishing him well with the operation, which he said will be on Monday.
“Thanks so much for all the nice messages today… Having operation on monday… Will let everyone know how it goes… I’ll be “back” stronger”, he wrote.
The previous message he sent was on Tuesday, during a major tournament draw. He said: “Tuned into watch davis cup draw expecting to find out who we play… Instead got a bunch of speeches… Get a move on!”