It’s been a year to the day since Andy Murray last won a tournament. There have been ups and downs over the last 365 days, but what have we learned and what does the next year hold for the three-time Grand Slam champion?
Murray’s form remains a mystery
Since beating Stan Wawrinka in the final in Antwerp a year ago, Murray has played seven ATP Tour matches. His record in those is 3-4.
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He has shown flashes of his quality in victories over Alexander Zverev at the Western & Southern Open and Yoshihito Nishioka at the US Open. The latter result in particular – from two sets down - was a reminder never to count Murray out.
But both those wins were followed up by straight-set defeats and there have been few positives to take from his last two outings – first-round losses to Stan Wawrinka at Roland-Garros and Fernando Verdasco in Cologne.
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He has also revealed he has been battling a pelvic problem since the US Open, which makes it difficult to assess Murray’s true form. He certainly needs more time on court though.
“I need to play matches and physically I need to get better,” said Murray after his disappointing defeat to Verdasco in Cologne.
Of course, the issue is that to play more matches, Murray needs to start winning more matches, otherwise he will be going home early from most tournaments. However, perhaps if he can’t string some wins together at ATP singles events then a venture into doubles or second-tier tournaments would be a wise option. Murray tried last year when he played at the Challenger event in Mallorca in August and managed to play three matches.
It should not be forgotten, though, that while he has now gone a year without a title, before winning in Antwerp last year he hadn’t lifted silverware in two-and-a-half years. And in the six tournaments before Antwerp he didn’t progress past the quarter-finals once, even though he even dropped down to Challenger level. So this might take some time, again.
Murray remains committed
While there are serious questions over whether Murray will ever compete at the very top again, he seems determined to give it a try.
“I want to try and win tournaments,” he said recently. “I am hoping that over these next few months with more matches, more tournaments and a training period going in to the new year, that next year will be a good one.”
Another sign that Murray will be sticking around for a while is his new position on the ATP Player Council. Murray is starting the role with immediate effect and is presumably hoping to have a long-term impact on the state of the game.
However, while Murray seems committed to continuing on tour, he won't be changing his game to try and prolong his career. "When I play my best tennis – or when I played my best tennis – I know what that looks like,” he said after losing to Wawrinka at the French Open. "It’s not going around blasting balls and serving and volleying. That isn’t how I play the game. If I do, let’s say, start serve-volleying and returning and coming into the net and things like that, it has to be successful."
Murray touched on this again after his defeat to Verdasco, saying: "I need to get back to playing my game on the court, I've kind of gone away from that a little bit."
What is Murray's game in 2020 and beyond? Physically can he still fight and grind his way through tournaments? Or will he need to adapt?
Murray may never be injury free
Murray’s title win last October raised hopes that he might be ready to compete with the best again, but only a month passed before he suffered hip problems during the Davis Cup. He then looked set to come back earlier this year before Covid-19 struck, and now he has a lingering pelvic issue.
“It has been on and off since the US Open,” he said after withdrawing from Cologne. “I have been trying to deal with it in training and in matches and unfortunately after my match this week it’s flared up again.”
Will Murray ever be 100 per cent healthy again? Nobody knows. But perhaps he can take some hope from Stan Wawrinka’s journey.
Like Murray, Wawrinka has been battling injuries over the last few years after undergoing two knee operations, but at 35 he has got himself back to No 18 in the world and is able to compete with the top players again.
Wawrinka is yet to win a title since his surgeries; Murray has already done it once, can he go again?
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