Andy Murray may be favourite to win the BBC’s coveted Sports Personality of the Year Award on Sunday, but the Wimbledon champion has decided not to attend the ceremony.
The Scot is expected to win the award in recognition of his momentous victory over Novak Djokovic, which ended a 77-year wait for a British winner of the tournament.
It is understood that Murray thought hard about returning from his training base in the United States, but believes attending the event, being held in Leeds, would interrupt his preparations for 2014 too much.
Murray has not played a match since the Davis Cup in September and, at the beginning of October, had surgery to resolve a persistent back problem.
Since then, he has spent every day doing what the doctors and the physiotherapists have ordered and, at the moment, he is training in Miami for the Qatar Open, which starts on 30 December, and January’s Australian Open.
The Dunblane-born star has revealed that after so many weeks taking small but steady steps towards full fitness, he is not willing to let anything halt his progress, not even Christmas.
He will train alone on Christmas Day – his girlfriend and family will be 3,500 miles away in the UK – and then head to the airport for the long haul to the Middle East.
Murray’s first tournament of the new season will be an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi on Boxing Day against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, before the official ATP season opener in Qatar.
The world No 4 said: “I’m currently recovering from back surgery in Miami. I have training and rehab every day up until Christmas Day, when I leave for a tournament. I’ll be on the road for five months in total, training on Christmas Day. I won’t spend it with my family or girlfriend. I don’t want to do it and, likewise,
“I’d like to be at the Sports Personality of the Year, but these are the sacrifices I need to make in order to give myself the best chance at the Australian Open.”
And he was keen to point out his non-attendance at the event was not a snub. He said: “I have a great relationship with the BBC, from the recent documentary to my regular columns throughout the year and I don’t want this to be seen as a snub.”
While the great and the good of British sport put the finishing touches to their speeches in time for Sunday’s extravaganza, Murray is keen to point out that he will be a part of the show via a satellite link-up and that his decision to stay in Florida this weekend has been taken on purely practical grounds.
Murray said: “I’m looking forward to linking up with the show live on the night and being part of it all.”
Commenting on the tennis star’s decision, a BBC spokesman said: “We are of course disappointed that Andy Murray cannot be in Leeds in person, but are very much looking forward to him joining us live on the night via link-up.”
Last month, Murray was named on the ten-strong shortlist alongside Sir Ben Ainslie, Ian Bell, Hannah Cockroft, Mo Farah, Chris Froome, Leigh Halfpenny, Tony McCoy, Christine Ohuru-ogu and Justin Rose.
Murray won his first award at the BBC ceremony in 2004 when he was named Young Sports Personality of the Year following his victory in the boys’ singles at the US Open.
Murray will doubtless hope that there is no repeat of the technical glitches that accompanied him receiving the third place trophy last year from Lennox Lewis by his apartment block swimming pool.
The last winner of the award who did not attend the ceremony was Joe Calzaghe in 2007 – he was in Las Vegas – while in 2005, Andrew Flintoff was unable to receive his award in person as he was on tour with the England cricket team in Pakistan.