If it can go wrong, it will go wrong. That has been the way of things for Andy Murray this year.
With Wimbledon just three days away, the world No 1 and the defending champion at the All England Club is taking it easy and resting his sore hip. He had been due to play at the Aspall Classic, an exhibition event, at the Hurlingham Club in London this afternoon but he thought better of it. He had been due to play on Tuesday, too, but pulled out of that match with the same complaint.
“Sadly I won’t be ready to play at The Hurlingham,” he said in an official statement yesterday. “My hip is still sore and I need to rest it today, and likely tomorrow.”
Admittedly, the weather has not been great this past week and the courts would have been slicker than usual – and a slippery court is the first step towards serious injury. But the fact that the nagging hip problem has still not cleared up is a concern.
What few wisps of smoke there are snaking from the chimneys of the Murray camp indicate that he will be fit and well by the time Monday rolls around and he begins the defence of his Wimbledon title, but his preparations have been limited at best.
It is three weeks since he lost to Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals of the French Open. At the time, Murray looked to be well on his way to recovery from the dismal slump in form that had dogged him since the start of the season. He was not playing as well as he had 12 months earlier to beat Wawrinka in four sets at the same stage of the competition, but he was looking a lot better than he had when he arrived in Paris.
As he headed for home, he promised to work harder than ever on the practice courts to kick on again from the improvements he had made at Roland Garros ahead of the start of the grasscourt season. True to his word, he and Ivan Lendl were training with intent in the week before the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club. But then everything went pear shaped again.
At Queen’s he managed to play just one competitive match – and that is using the term loosely. Against Jordan Thompson, then the world No 90 (he sits at the dizzy heights of No 86 this week) in the first round, Murray was lethargic. He was tentative. He was lacklustre. He was just plain awful and lost in straight sets.
Murray’s injury is just the latest in a long series of niggling problems this year. Although he did not realise it at the time, he was coming down with shingles during the Australian Open. He injured his elbow in Indian Wells, he had flu in Miami and then he caught a heavy cold before the French Open. If only anyone had the nerve, they would nickname him “Sick Note”.
Sure enough, the Scot won the title in Dubai at the start of March and reached the final in Doha in January but the mind-bending consistency that took him to the top of the rankings last year has gone. Physically he has struggled while on the rare occasions that he has been fit and well, he has lost the fierce intensity that drove him to win match after match last year regardless of how well or badly he was playing, of how tired or aching his body was.
Perhaps Wimbledon will focus his mind and rekindle the competitive fires – he can only hope so. The only good news is that things cannot really get much worse.