December 15, 2018, 9:05

The long road back – key issues facing Andy Murray four tournaments into his return

The long road back – key issues facing Andy Murray four tournaments into his return

Andy Murray lost his opening match at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati to France’s Lucas Pouille on Monday.

Four tournaments into his return from hip surgery, Murray has won four matches and lost three and sits at 375 in the world rankings.

Here, we assess where the Scot stands in his comeback.

Fitness

The main concern remains Murray’s physical condition and how close to his previous level he will be able to reach. The signs in Washington two weeks ago were positive, with his movement much improved from his first outings on grass. Pouille is a quality player, and Murray pushed him very close after a poor first set, but the former world number one’s shots currently lack the potency they need for him to be able to go toe-to-toe with the best players. He is still having to do a lot of rehab work and teaching his body slowly how to cope with the strain of back-to-back matches.

Patience

Stan Wawrinka took a long time to find his form again after knee surgery (Nigel French/PA).

It is still very early in Murray’s comeback given the nature of his injury and the length of time he was sidelined. Drawing any long-term conclusions about his prospects is premature. Stan Wawrinka returned from knee surgery in January and only now is starting to look anywhere close to his previous level. There is no doubt Murray has the hunger and desire to maximise what he has left of his career but patience will be key because, even if his body is willing, there will inevitably be ups and downs.

US Open prospects

Wimbledon was the fourth major in a row Andy Murray has missed (Steven Paston/PA).

The US Open begins in less than two weeks and it is again reaching crunch time for Murray to decide if he is ready to play best-of-five-set tennis. He made the call that Wimbledon was too early – the fourth major tournament he has missed in a row – but the signs have been more positive in terms of him at least making the start line this time. Having been criticised for pulling out following the draw in New York 12 months ago, he will surely want to avoid that this time. But listening to his body remains key.

Tough draws

Of the seven matches Murray has played, four have been against opponents ranked in the top 25. His low ranking means the Scot will not be seeded in any tournament, opening up the possibility of very tough draws. With 128 players in the draw, a grand slam statistically should offer a better chance of a kinder opening match. Murray did beat the two lower-ranked players he faced in Washington – Mackenzie McDonald and Marius Copil – but neither was in any way straightforward. What is clear is there will be no shortcut back to the top.

Source: breakingnews.ie

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