In order to be better prepared for next season, former British no.1 Andy Murray will cut his season short after playing two tournaments in China over the next fortnight.
Murray enjoyed the most successful season of his career in 2016, winning Wimbledon, Olympic gold in Rio, and the Tour Finals, as well as making the finals at the French Open and the Australian Open. Unfortunately this highly-congested schedule took its toll on Murray the following year as he was forced to withdraw from the ATP tour and miss the majority of the 2018 season. Murray has only played ten matches this season, winning six. However, Murray has shown shades of his former prowess in recording wins over Stanislas Wawrinka and current British no.1 Kyle Edmund.
Murray made his Grand Slam return at the US Open last month, falling in the second round to the veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and will now close his season at the ATP 250 event in Shenzhen and the ATP 500 event in Beijing. This means that Murray will miss the Shanghai Masters and the Paris Masters, the final ATP 1000 events of the season.
The plan seemingly mirrors Roger Federer’s extended hiatus prior to the 2017 season, where he won his first majors in five years and regained his no.1 ranking. Murray looks set to complete a rigorous reconditioning course over the next few months to better prepare for the first major of 2019 in Australia. It was on the eve of this year’s Australian Open that Murray underwent successful hip surgery after attempting to recover naturally. However Murray still shows the severity of that injury, limping slightly between points and during play.
Perhaps the biggest challenge that faces Murray, now ranked just inside the top 300, is how he will adapt his game to work around the ailments he has sustained from his injuries. We’re used to Murray’s tireless approach, speed, and his impressive return of serve but with new limitations on his flexibility, mobility and pace brought on by this hip injury, Murray will need to find shortcuts in his attacking style to conserve energy and protect that hip.
But Murray will find solace in elite tennis’ current state. The top four, currently comprising of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Juan Martin del Potro, have all faced lengthy spells out in recent years before returning to the peak of the sport. Murray faces a similar conflict of attrition, and one that his strong mental state is capable of overcoming.