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In Depth: What next for Murray after his Australian Open setback?

In Depth: What next for Murray after his Australian Open setback?

29/12/2019 at 11:16Updated 29/12/2019 at 13:55

Eurosport looks at the possibilities in store for Andy Murray after he withdrew from the Australian Open with a pelvic injury.

Why has Andy Murray withdrawn?

Andy Murray was planning on contesting the Australian Open this January, but on Saturday evening he confirmed that he would be withdrawing from the tournament due to injury. An inflamed pelvis means that he will skip the competition.

The injury means he will also miss the ATP Cup miss in Australia that starts on 3 January 2020.

Missing Melbourne will concern fans of the player as it was at a press conference before the 2019 event that he tearfully expressed doubts that he would ever play competitive tennis again.

How has his recovery gone so far?

Murray was, remarkably, able to come back to professional tennis and win again. He defeated Stan Wawrinka in the European Open final to not just compete, but to lift a trophy. The 32-year-old Scot also featured for Great Britain at the Davis Cup in November.

It is not the kind of success he’s used to, but given his performance in the Mallorca Challenger back in August when he was knocked out in the third round, it is clear he has made significant progress.

It seems that participating in that is the root cause of the pelvic bruising flaring up, and understandably Murray and his team are not going to risk what has already been a fearsomely difficult comeback. Some people who have the pelvic resurfacing operation that Murray underwent are not able to run, so Murray is breaking ground and discovering new problems with his body.

Video - Emotional Murray reacts to European Open win - 'I didn't expect to be in this position at all'

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Do we know when he will be back?

Realistically, the answer is no. There is always the possibility that Murray will not be able to recover from this setback, and at 32 he does not have the recovery powers of youth on his side anymore. However, there is no indication of an imminent retirement, and as things stand he is pencilled in to return February’s Open Sud in Montpellier.

Video - Murray's remarkable comeback continues

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What's next for Murray?

There are three main possibilities in front of Murray for the rest of his career. The first is that he is unable to make a go of professional tennis regularly enough to keep putting his body through such stresses and strains. If that happens, he is clearly an intelligent player and far from combative with his opponents, so there is a good chance that he would consider moving into coaching. Off the court, he is a keen investor in start-ups, and might be tempted to try something like Gerard Pique, who is overseeing what he hopes will become the World Cup of tennis.

The next is he is able to make a full return to competition. His defeat of Wawrinka demonstrated that retains all the talent to be a dangerous proposition for any player in the world, and Roger Federer has demonstrated that age is not an insurmountable problem.

Another possibility is that he will take inspiration from Federer and take a more selective approach to his participation. It is not clear what is suitable for his pelvis, but harder surfaces might be skipped in order to make a full-blooded attempt when the campaign kicks in on softer courts.

It is hard to believe he will not have at least one more tilt at the Wimbledon title, where he became a British favourite. With Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, he may fancy ending his career with another Olympic experience.

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The Expert View

Simon Reed, Eurosport Commentator: "It’s certainly not good news but I don’t think it’s necessarily the beginning of the end. He’s being ultra careful this time around. I don’t see Andy going into one on one coaching. ... certainly not long term.I think he’s destined for a significant role in the next stage of his career."

Dan Quarrell, Eurosport Journalist: "I think he would in the long term as he's always been very passionate about coaching and it runs through both sides of his family with Nigel Sears and Judy Murray having excelled in that area of the sport. But with a young family and the stresses and strains of his travelling and rehab as a player, he's unlikely going to want to get straight back on the circuit as a coach after retirement."

Drew Lilley, Eurosport Commentator: "I don't think we'll know for another month or so if this is the end of his career or not. If he plays at the Open Sud de France at the start of February, which is his new target post-Australia withdrawal, then he should be in line for a "Federesque" season, picking the events that suit his hip and overall physical health.

"If he postpones that February comeback though, it could be a Wimbledon wildcard and farewell. If he wants to coach, people will be queuing up to glean information from a man who learned from Ivan Lendl and Amélie Mauresmo among others."