Boris Becker insists tennis “needs” Andy Murray and believes both he and Novak Djokovic will be motivated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s own comebacks.
Former world number one Murray is targeting a return for the grass-court season having been sidelined since last year’s Wimbledon due to a hip problem that he had surgery on in the new year.
Without Murray and Djokovic, another multiple grand slam winner recovering from injury, 36-year-old Federer and 31-year-old Nadal have risen back to the top of the ATP rankings.
Yet Becker, speaking in Monaco in his role as an ambassador for Laureus, feels the sport would benefit from Murray’s return.
“Tennis needs him; tennis is not the same without Andy Murray,” the German said.
“He got this problem and he stopped when he was the number one player in the world. It’s the last thing you want to happen.
“It’s a serious injury - I’m not his doctor, I can’t give you details of what the surgery was - but what I hear is he is contemplating coming back on the grass because obviously it’s a little easier for the hip.
“I think you wouldn’t come back if you wouldn’t have the chance to come back fully fit.
“Once he’s fully fit, he’s one of the best players in the world. Then it’s a question of time. How much time are you going to give yourself to come back to this level you had before? I hope he does.”
Murray turns 31 this year, exactly the age Becker was when the three-time Wimbledon champion called time on his career.
“It’s the most difficult decision for an athlete,” Becker said of retirement.
“We all come to that moment of having to face the man in the mirror and saying, ‘We’re too old’. It’s not because 31 is old but it’s because of the wear and tear and the physical demands that you’ve asked from your body. It’s not a number.
“(Bjorn) Borg thought he was too old at 26! It’s the most difficult decision you have to ask yourself because it’s not normal to be called old at 31, 32.
“You’re still starting your life as a man. But as an athlete, you are not a spring chicken any more. It’s difficult.”
Yet Becker also acknowledged that the way Federer and Nadal have returned from their injury issues will serve as motivation for Murray and Djokovic, who is recovering from an elbow problem himself.
Federer, at 36, has won three of the last five grand slams, with Nadal, 31, claiming the other two.
“It’s tempting, you say, ‘Why is he coming back and being number one’, like Rafa was too,” Becker said of Federer.
“And the same goes for Novak, you’re tempted with these other guys coming back and playing better than before. That’s the double-edged sword.”
- The Laureus World Sports Awards highlight sporting excellence and recognise those who use sport to change lives for the better. For more information, head to www.laureus.com/awards