Andy Murray has revealed his wish to simply return to full fitness trumps winning further grand slam titles after a year blighted by injury.
Murray was primed to add to his haul of three grand slam after starting 2017 as world No 1, but indifferent results in Australia and France were followed by a hip complaint that has sidelined him since his quarter-final exit at Wimbledon in July.
The 30-year-old has slumped to 16th in the rankings and once again split with coach Ivan Lendl, but says his absence from competitive action has allowed him to rediscover his love for the sport.
He said: “When I was fit and healthy last year you think about winning all the major events, getting to number one and winning every competition you’re in, that’s what really drives you.
“When you miss four or five months – and there’s been a bit of uncertainty about my hip and stuff and I missed the US Open and I almost missed Wimbledon as well – the goals change and I remember now how much I just love playing tennis.
“It isn’t about winning every match that I play in the future or winning more slams, I just want to get back to playing tennis. I want to be fit and healthy again and that’s what’s driving me just now, that’s my goal, and I’m hoping that next year I get back to that.”
However, the hope of adding to his two Wimbledon titles and one US Open crown will still be a significant motivating factor.
He added: “The major competitions are the ones that drive me more than the ranking. I want to compete – it was tough for me basically limping out of Wimbledon at the end.
“I want to be competing hard and trying to win the Australian Open in January and the (other) grand slams. That is ultimately what I want to be doing, but first and foremost I need to get healthy. I was pretty unhealthy for most of this year and I am getting there but it is a slow process.”
A specific timetable for Murray’s return has yet to be confirmed, but he said in November he hoped to feature at the Brisbane International, starting on December 31, ahead of January’s Australian Open.
One of Murray’s biggest rivals, Novak Djokovic, will make his competitive return this weekend after being out for nearly six months.
The 12-time grand slam winner has not played since abandoning his Wimbledon quarter-final against Tomas Berdych in July. Djokovic did not pick up a racket for four and a half months after having surgery on his right elbow.
But the 30-year-old Serb will return to action at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi – little more than two weeks before the Australian Open, gets under way.
“It’s been a real roller-coaster ride for me for a year and a half with this issue,” Djokovic said.
“I’ve never had surgery in my life, I’ve never had any major injuries that kept me away from the tour for such a long time.
“I can’t wait to get back on the competition level, but it was a great experience for me to have because I got maybe too comfortable with not having major injuries.”
Serena Williams will also make her playing comeback in Abu Dhabi following the birth of her daughter in September.