Andy Murray opts for rest cure but faces rankings freefall

At long last, there is white smoke puffing from the chimney of Murray Towers: a decision has been reached. Andy Murray will not have surgery to cure his troublesome hip but he is unlikely to play competitively again this year.

Andy Murray may be out of the top ten by the time he returns from his injury lay-off in 2018. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

He issued a statement yesterday morning to that effect but unlike his rivals Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka, he has not given up completely on the season. The others hung up their rackets weeks ago and gave in to their long-standing injuries; Murray has not completely ruled out a return to the courts before the year is done.

In his statement, he said: “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to compete in the upcoming events in Beijing and Shanghai, and most likely, the final two events to finish the season in Vienna and Paris due to my hip injury which has been bothering me the last few months.

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“Having consulted with a number of leading hip specialists over the last week, along with my own team, we have decided that this is the best decision for my long-term future.

“Although this has been a frustrating year on court for many reasons, I’m confident after this extended period of rest and rehabilitation that I will be able to reach my best level again and be competing for Grand Slam titles next season.”

Murray is not very good at sitting around and doing nothing, although four months of intensive rehab to settle the hip is hardly a holiday. But it is the excitement and adrenaline rush of competition – and winning – that motivates him and he will be itching to get back to work as soon as he can.

With 20-20 hindsight, he should probably never have tried to compete at the US Open but after spending six weeks doing nothing but physiotherapy, he could not help himself – he had to see if he had a chance of playing. And when he realised he was not ready, he looked crushed.

“I want to be back on court as soon as I can,” Murray said as he pulled out of the Open. “If it means that I can play before the end of the year, then that’s what I would love to do. I miss competing and I’ll try to get myself back on court as soon as I can.”

Murray has been dealing with his hip issues for many years. He assured everyone at Wimbledon and again in New York that he cannot do any more damage to the joint by playing, it is just that sometimes it is simply too painful to play at full pelt. That would indicate a degenerative problem that cannot be cured but, rather, just managed carefully for the rest of his career.

Despite turning 30 this year, Murray obviously has no plans for retirement. His statement said that he would begin the 2018 season at the Brisbane International on 31 December and, less than an hour after the news was released, the Brisbane tournament announced that they had signed a three year deal with the Scot. The Sunshine State will be his warm-up for the Australian Open for the foreseeable future.

Next year, though, promises to be full of surprises. Murray is currently the world No2 but he will drop to No3 next week. Between now and the end of the year, he has 4,860 ranking points to defend – and by not playing, he will lose them all. In today’s ranking list, the loss of those points would drop him down to No 19 in the pecking order.

As for his position in the race for the eight places at the end-of-year championships at the O2 Arena in London, Murray is in ninth place with a gaggle of men behind him ready to overtake him in the next couple of weeks.

With Djokovic, Wawrinka and Nishikori all dropping points, too, the new year could see them and Murray all out of the world’s top 10. That could turn the draw for the Australian Open into 
a minefield for those with their eyes on the title.

Djokovic, pictured above, and Murray have spent the past few years on opposite sides of the draw, seeded to meet only in the final. Next year, they may be bumping into each other a lot earlier in the competition with the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal waiting for them in the next round. Then there are the young guns making their mark, the Alexander Zverevs and Dominic Thiems of this world staking their claim to regular berth in the world’s top 10 – they will be waiting for the Scot on his return.

But first, Murray must get himself back to full fitness. The only date he has in his diary between now and Christmas is his charity event at The Hydro in Glasgow on 7 November against Federer. Raising money for Unicef and Sunny-sid3up, it is an exhibition match and, as such, is unlikely to test the stamina of either Murray or the 19-time grand slam champion too much.

Federer is the perfect role model for Murray. The Swiss took six months off last year and bounced straight back to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon and put himself in touching distance of the No 1 ranking. And, as Federer contemplated the predicted carnage in the rankings next year, he gave his old Scots pal cause for hope.

“I think it’s going to be very interesting,” Federer said. “The changing of the guard is going to come at some stage. Could 
very well be next year. But I still predict it’s going to take a few more years.”