It is the worst decision a professional sportsman has to make: when to give in to common sense and medical advice. And Andy Murray made that decision yesterday afternoon, pulling out of Wimbledon on the eve of the tournament.
The grass court season had been the ultimate goal when, in January, he underwent surgery to repair his right hip. The surgery went well, Murray was upbeat. The carrot of Wimbledon dangled in front of him as he went through the arduous process of recovery and rehab. There were ups and downs over the past six months but he did make it back on to the grass courts, returning two weeks ago.
His progress since then has been impressive and he has been able to compete at a far higher level than many thought possible after so long away from the courts, but still Murray was far from his best.
His first match, against Nick Kyrgios at Queen’s Club, took two hours and 39 minutes and he felt sore and stiff the following day. His matches in Eastbourne were quicker and he recovered far better but they were the best of three-sets. At Wimbledon, he could potentially have been on court for five sets and many hours and that was a step too far.
“It’s been a positive ten days, two weeks,” Murray said of his comeback. “I decided to play at Queen’s. Considering the circumstances, I think I competed pretty well against the level of opposition that I was up against.
“Also in practices, it’s not like any of my practice sessions that guys have been killing me and I’ve been completely off the pace. I’ve been competitive against everyone that I’ve played against in practice.
“Before Queen’s I knew that I had played a couple of sets in practice and done a little bit more training after those practices in the gym. I knew I was pretty much ready for that. But I also know how I felt after the match with Nick, too, so there was a bit of that in the back of my mind, thinking, if I played a five-set match and it was four hours, how am I going to feel? Nobody can guarantee that I’m going to wake up and feel great.
“What I didn’t want to do was to start the tournament, potentially win my first match, and then withdraw because I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel that was the right thing to do, either.”
On Saturday, he had sounded positive about the prospect of playing on Tuesday but then, on reflection yesterday morning and after long discussions with his team and his doctor, Dr Bryan English, he realised that it was too big a chance to take. Why risk all that hard work just to play at an event he knew he could not win?
“I didn’t feel like I was going to win the tournament,” he said. “I didn’t feel I was going to do extremely well in the tournament. There were just so many unknowns. They were all signs that it was maybe not the right thing to do, to play at this stage in my recovery at that level and at that length of match, too.
“It’s been hard because I really wanted to play. Once you get back on the match court, you don’t want to be taking what feels like a bit of a step back in some ways. What I would not have wanted to do was play three or four matches, get through to the second week and feel terrible. It has been tough but I am kind of at ease with the decision.” So now Murray will return to the practice courts and the gym. He has a month of lonely work to do before his next scheduled tournament in Washington while on his TV there will be wall-to-wall coverage Wimbledon, the tournament he would so dearly love to be a part of.
“I believe I will be back at Wimbledon for sure,” Murray said. “In terms of getting back to the top of the game, I am not basing that on ranking, I am basing that on how competitive I feel I can be against the best players in the world. If I can get myself fit and healthy, I believe that my tennis will get there and it won’t take that long to get back.
“I’ve watched Wimbledon in the past on the TV, like after I’ve lost, and stuff, and yeah it’s tough. But I’ll be all right.”