Andy Murray knows a thing or two about creating history. The man who became Great Britain’s first Wimbledon champion since 1936, is now attempting to create even more by returning to the top of the game, that's according to former British number one Greg Rusedski.
“What he has achieved so far nobody has done before,” Rusedski told The Sportsman. “He is trying to conquer something nobody has really done before by trying to get back to the very top of men’s tennis, so for me, it is more a journey of enjoying the game getting on the court, being healthy and being allowed to do what he wants to do with the rest of his career.”
Murray had targeted a return to competitive action at the Miami Open, which hopes to get underway in just two weeks time. And Rusedski, who's now a pundit for Amazon Prime's tennis coverage which will deliver live and exclusive coverage of over 80 tournaments from the ATP and WTA Tours, is keen to see Murray back on the court.
“I think we are going to learn more about him during the Miami event and hopefully, he is physically healthy to play and for me, that is the key. It is a rebuilding period every time you have surgery or injury it is starting afresh and having to build up again and for any professional athlete that is the most difficult thing you can do and as you get older it becomes more and more challenging.”
Murray’s initial comeback seemed to be a success when he won an ATP event in Antwerp back in October, beating Stan Wawrinka in the final, but other hip issues meant this is now his third or fourth attempted comeback after two surgeries. Rusedski believes that Murray’s midset is unquestionable.
“Everybody gets overly excited in the beginning because he wins Antwerp and we are thinking ‘Wow, he is back, he is going to be in contention again’ but you’ve got to remember that Djokovic, Nadal, all of those guys have been playing healthy week in week out, whereas Andy has been away predominantly for the last two years.
“His mindset, dedication and professionalism have never been in doubt,” Rusedski continued.
“I think the general public learned from that Amazon documentary as well is how hard he has pushed himself because you watch his training sessions yet he is always doing extra. He can push through the pain but I think the thing that was most interesting for me was when he said ‘at times I wish I was a little bit smarter’ because he needed to put himself through that punishment - but then he says the older I am getting I have to be smarter.”
Having been reasonably fluid on the practice courts Murray was targeting the Miami Open as a return to competitive action. However, the tournament is now under threat of being cancelled after the Indian Wells tennis tournament was called off after coronavirus fears spread. This has been the first sporting event to be cancelled in the United States due to the virus and as the Miami Open is due to start in just two weeks, it is now also under threat. Despite this potential setback, Murray’s desire to return to the game is unquestionable according to Rusedski.
“Here is our greatest male tennis player that we have ever had from Britain in the Open Era bar none with his accomplishments, he has nothing more to prove,” he said. “He has won two Wimbledon’s, two Olympic golds, the US Open, he has been end of season world number one. Yet he still believes there is more for him to be able to achieve. He still thinks from a tactical point of view if he can get his body right that he can still compete and beat the very best and that is why he is driven to continue to do this.”
Rusedski, who suffered injury problems of his own, believes we can learn a lot from what we will hopefully see on the court in the United States and hopes Murray’s movement on the court is natural. “It always comes down to movement,” he said. “Movement in our sport, no matter how well you hit the ball, that is the defining thing. You can hit the tennis ball, forehand, backhand, serve, return volleys, there is no difference between Andy Murray who was number one. It is all about movement. If you are half a step later then you are always on the defence rather than the offence.
“If he is in Miami, whether he wins or loses is irrelevant, but if he comes off the court and the body is alright, the hip is alright, that gives us hope coming up to the clay-court season and onto the grass-court season that he will play. We would obviously love to see him back at Queens and Wimbledon this year if his body allows him to but we will only get the answers to that in Miami.”
Murray’s last Grand Slam title came at Wimbledon in 2016 and it was also the last time he made an appearance in a Gram Slam final, something that Rusedski experienced in 1997. When asked if he could see Murray reaching another final, he was still believed there was a long way to go.
“It is such a far road away at the moment it would be very difficult to say so. We need to see him on the court for at least a year before we can even answer that question. If he decides to play for a year or whatever he wants to do.
"You have got to remember that this younger generation are starting to play well as well, Dominic Thiem, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, all these younger guys out there playing well plus let’s not forget [Novak] Djokovic, [Rafael] Nadal, every time you are away from the tour these guys are continually getting better. If it was so easy to get to a Slam final we would all do it - I did it once in my career. How many Slam finals and Slam wins does he have? His record is extraordinary.
"He has got to do the steps first. He has won a tour event but that was before he reinjured himself again. Had he played for three months and had no injuries then it would be a lot easier.”