Andy Murray is used to causing a stir at Wimbledon – he has been doing it pretty much every year since 2005 – but creating a major commotion at airports is a new one on him.
In the five months since he had his hip resurfacing surgery, Murray has taken two flights. And each time, he has set off the alarms at the airport security gates: his new, tin hip shows up as a potentially dangerous item, one not to be taken on board.
“It went off both times,” Murray said. “I didn’t actually think about it before because I don’t really remember that it’s in there now. I went through, it went off and I was like, ‘Oh for God’s sake’. And then when I got through, my wife was like, ‘You know that’s because of your hip’. I was like, ‘Oh f**k, of course’.
“Bob Bryan was telling me that you can get a medical certificate but I’m not going to walk around with that to say that I have got a metal hip and show that’s why I am setting the detector off.”
Bryan is one half of the record-setting Bryan brothers doubles team (he has won 118 titles in his 23-year career) and he is Murray’s shining example. He, too, spent months struggling through excruciating pain as he tried to eke out a few more months of his career on a knackered hip. He, too, spent months on painful, and ultimately pointless, rehab in an effort to avoid surgery. And he, too, gave in, had his hip resurfaced and was back on court within five months. So if Bryan could do it, so could Murray.
Just weeks after his operation, Bryan went to the US Open where the security is tight and there are airport-style scanners at every entrance. As he hobbled through every morning, the alarms went off, the lights flashed and he was hauled to one side by the security guards.
“I buzzed when I went through the metal detectors,” Bryan said. “I didn’t have a medical waiver then, so I just showed them the scar.”
Bryan learned his lesson: he now carries the appropriate paperwork.
That Murray is back on court and winning titles again, even if his latest Queen’s Club trophy is for doubles rather than singles, seemed unthinkable at the start of the year. At that point, he had worked long and hard for six months to try and get his right hip into some semblance of readiness for match play. But just before the start of the Australian Open, he played a practice match with Novak Djokovic and won just two games before they abandoned the idea with Murray trailing 6-1, 4-1.
Murray had already decided the previous month that he would retire. He could not go on like that, in that much pain and getting absolutely no pleasure or satisfaction from the sport he loved. The only question was when he would retire – there and then or at Wimbledon. But he knew his hip was completely shot.
“That decision was made in December when I was training, that I couldn’t play competitive tennis anymore,” Murray said. “When I spoke to my team then, I was like, ‘I’m going to stop, I need to stop because I can’t keep doing this’.
“Matches or practice sets like that [against Djokovic] was where I also realised that I was right. Doing practice sets like that, I couldn’t serve properly, I couldn’t run properly. I knew I couldn’t play any more so we discussed stopping.
“Then after speaking to Bob Bryan, I decided to go ahead and have the operation and then just wait and see what happens.”
Even so, going under the knife could have been a finite end-point to his career. Had the surgery not been successful, there would have been absolutely no way back for the Scot. No wonder, then, that he did his research and asked everyone he could think of for advice. But when he went to talk to his surgeon, Sarah Muirhead-Allwood, after he got back from Australia, the fates seemed to be pushing him towards deciding on surgery.
He went for a scan after the first consultation and, out of the blue, received a text from the surgeon who had operated on his back in 2013. He just happened to be in the same hospital seeing patients that day so he and Murray chatted about his hip problems and about Muirhead-Allwood’s excellent reputation.
Then, when he got out of the lift after his scan, the Scot bumped into another of his regular medical advisors and he, too, had nothing but praise for Muirhead-Allwood. With all these ducks lining up in a neat row, Murray’s decision became easier.
As Murray wrote in his column for the BBC website: “After speaking to Sarah for about an hour, and then hearing what these people in the medical industry said, I knew in my head I wanted her to operate on me. I don’t necessarily believe in fate but it was really odd.”
Now Murray is back at Wimbledon, the place where, five months ago, he thought he would be waving farewell to tennis. But now he is looking towards a serious charge in the men’s doubles with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and a push for the mixed doubles title with a partner yet to be decided.
If he were to come away with either of those two trophies, he would create one almighty commotion – and not just at the airport.