Authors: Rio Sports
Andy Murray, who is unable to defend his title at the ATP World Tour Finals, which start on Sunday, practised at the London O2 Arena on Saturday with one of the young finalists, Dominic Thiem, a stark image of the game’s brutal physicality.
As his wounded hip heals slowly, Murray still limps a little, but his mood is more upbeat than at any time during his four-month absence since losing in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. He felt sufficiently confident after his public reappearance in a charity match in Glasgow, against Roger Federer this week, to test himself against the dynamic Austrian at the venue where he won the title for the first time a year ago.
He said in front of his Scottish supporters on Tuesday night it is the love of the game that drives him to get fit enough to compete again – having tumbled from No1 in the world to No3, then No16 in this week’s ATP rankings – and cautious indications are that he will be ready to return to the Tour in Brisbane in January, before the Australian Open in Melbourne.
However, a source close to the player thinks he will have to reduce his workload significantly to get back to the top 10 – and for the rest of his career, which might last another couple of years, rather than the three or four Murray has mentioned over the past 12 months.
“Andy has always been a great problem-solver and thinker,” the source said. “He will know exactly how hard to push himself. The problem is simple wear and tear over a long time. So, he will not be able to play as often.”
This is his how the top 10 managed their season: No1 Rafael Nadal, aged 31, played 17 tournaments; Federer, 36, 16; Alexander Zverev, 20, 24; Thiem, 24, 26; Marin Cilic, 29, 21; Grigor Dimitrov 26, 22; Stan Wawrinka 32, 15; David Goffin, 26, 25; Jack Sock, 25, 21; Pablo Carreño Busta, 26, 24. Murray and the 12th-ranked Novak Djokovic, both 30 years old, managed 16 tournaments before injury cut them down. Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic also quit the Tour early.
The six-times champion Federer, who owes his longevity to a philosophy of reduced commitment, said before his opening match in London – against Jack Sock on Sunday – that his days of playing the entire season are long behind him.
“I just cannot play 25 tournaments any more,” he said. “I can but I don’t know what the outcome will be. I choose to stay healthy and injury-free. This year I ended up playing a lot less than I would.”
Federer, who added two grand slam titles to his cv in 2017, bypassed the clay season and there is a good chance he might never play in the French Open again. Murray will look hard at his schedule when he comes back on the Tour.
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