Andy Murray making plans for new tennis season after stepping up fitness work

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For almost everyone else of note, the season is inching towards a close at the showcase finale ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena in London (which starts on Sunday). For Andy Murray, though, the new season is already under way.

Murray pulled the curtain down on his playing schedule for 2018 back in September. He had played 12 matches (and won seven) since his return at Queen’s Club from hip surgery.

Andy Murray has been practising, but has mostly spent his time training on his fitness in the gym.

Andy Murray has been practising, but has mostly spent his time training on his fitness in the gym.

Every tournament, all six of them, was another careful and considered step towards his ultimate goal of regaining full fitness, and at no time did he step on court with the belief that he could win the title.

But now, two months away from the start of the 2019 campaign, he sounds like a different man.

“I’m feeling physically a little better every day,” he said yesterday as part of a push to promote the Brisbane International, his first event of the new year.

“It’s obviously been a tough year with the hip injury and the surgery but I’m getting closer.

“I’ve been practising already for a few days and I’ve still got a couple of months to get myself in the best shape for the start of the tournament.”

When he first came back, he spoke warily of altering many aspects of his schedule, from his playing calendar to how much time he spends practising on court – changes had to be made to prolong what was left of his career.

But the admission that he has only been practising for the past few days does not mean that Murray has been slacking since his last match in Shenzhen.

Since the summer, Murray has been working with Bill Knowles in Philadelphia. Based at HP Sports, a gym in the suburbs of the city, Knowles has become the go-to man for professional athletes from all sports recovering from serious injury. Murray prepared for the US Open with Knowles, went back to Philadelphia after the tournament and since returning from China has been hard at work with Knowles to prepare for the training blocks he needs before the start of the new season.

“I’ve spent four or five weeks in Philadelphia doing a lot of off-court training,” Murray said.

“Then in December, I’m going to go to Miami and do three or four weeks of training in the hot conditions there and spending a lot more time on court to get myself ready for Brisbane.”

Murray’s record in Brisbane is perfect – he has never been beaten there and has won the title twice, in 2012 and 2013.

In January this year, he was hoping to start his comeback there but realised a couple of days before the event began that he was in no state to play at the top level. A week later, he went under the surgeon’s knife in Melbourne.

Coming back this time (providing he continues his current progress and stays fit and healthy), the Scot is feeling far more optimistic.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing there in the past,” he said. “I’ve played some good tennis and had some successful weeks there. It’s always been great preparation for the Aussie Open.

“I’m looking forward to playing there again and hopefully I can perform well.” 
He will have to. The field includes Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov.

But, as most players returning from long spells of injury will tell you, you do not forget how to play just because you have been away for a while; the key is being healthy enough to play.

And by the sound of it, Murray is well on his way to achieving that goal.