Andy Murray’s year has sadly never ignited. Once you think it has got going, an injury would strike, which has seriously frustrated the Scot. His 2017 year took another devastating blow when he was forced to miss the US Open with the same niggling injury that has impacted him for for just over two months. The 2012 champion desperately wanted to add another New York crown to his collection; “it’s too sore for me to win the tournament and ultimately that’s what I was here to try and do,” an emotional Murray said as he withdrew from the tournament. A wise decision for the World #2 would be to call an end to the season, recharge, and get ready for an assault on his 2018 campaign.
Quite frankly this season has been a very poor one for Andy Murray, and that is not his fault; his body has been cursed with injuries this year as well as the odd patch of illness. As soon as a period of great tennis comes, the injuries steal it from his hands. The first signs of vulnrebility occurred after the Australian Open, when he was struck down with shingles. Many experts were putting this down to the immense pressure he has put his body under, especially in the last few months of 2016. In those last few months the Brit was leaving every last drop of hard work and tennis on the court in order to achieve the #1 ranking. The run involved him winning five tournaments in a row in both Asia and Europe.
The Scot managed to come back in style to win the title in Dubai but it was one step forward, three steps back. Murray was then seriously hampered in Indian Wells with an elbow injury that also forced him out of Miami. A poor clay court season followed, but he managed to play his best tennis of the year on the red clay of Roland Garros where he secured wins over world class players like Juan Martin del Potro and Kei Nishikori. He came so close to defeating Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals, which was a huge step in the right direction – but it was in fact a huge step in the wrong one.
That epic 5-set match against Wawrinka triggered the same problem that troubles him to this day: the hip injury. At his US Open press conference he revealed, “I’ve had the issue with the hip over what’s been since my match with Stan in Paris.” The injury also damaged his chances at Queen’s and Wimbledon, two tournaments that mean so much to him. Murray was not competitive at all during his Wimbledon quarterfinal against Sam Querrey; the Briton could hardly move in the final two sets which was an extremely tough watch. That was the last time we have seen Andy Murray in a tennis match.
Chasing an ATP Finals Place is the Wrong Decision
The last thing that the World #2 wants to do is to slug his way through the rest of the year. Of course he wants to be back, “I want to be on court as soon as I can, if it means that I can play before the end of the year then that’s what I’ll do.” Of course the ATP Finals is a great tournament and Murray is the defending champion, but is it really worth it? As a result of him missing the US Open, he will be in the chasing pack for London and vying for a qualifying spot. If he does come back after the final Grand Slam of the year then he is likely to do everything he can to book his spot at the O2.
In 2014 Andy Murray was in a serious battle to qualify for London. He then embarked on an end of year run of low level tournaments to accumulate enough points to qualify. He was competing in ATP 250 events like Shenzhen and Vienna, not the types of tournaments you expect him to play. Murray won both of those tournaments and eventually secured his place at the season finale. Even last year, he went on a similar run in order to secure his #1 ranking. He had won four successive tournaments after the US Open before he even stepped foot in the O2.
The ATP Finals mean so much to Andy Murray, especially being in London. If he is able to compete after New York he may be tempted to put himself through hell to qualify. Doing so may aggravate his serious hip injury or perhaps create new ones.
Start 2018 Fresh
Not much is left to achieve for the Scot in 2017. He cannot finish the year in the top two and he cannot win a Grand Slam. The best thing he can do is to make a full recovery and dedicate a lot of time to training. His tennis levels and physical levels may not have been maintained due to his time on the sidelines, so a lengthy training block can only do him good. He will not be alone in saying goodbye to the season either. Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, and Kei Nishikori will all next be on court in 2018. If they can sort all their issues out then there is no doubt they can get to the level they were at before. Murray did hint that he is contemplating taking the rest of the year off, “Obviously when you speak to a lot [of specialists] there are different views and opinions on what the best thing moving forward is and that is a decision I’ll need to take now.”
If Murray does take the rest of the season off, then his ranking will likely drop between #17 and #22, which will give him tough draws in the big events but a fit Andy Murray can beat anybody. Luckily for him he does not have too many points to defend for the first half of the season, relatively speaking. Murray has said numerous times that he does not focus on rankings, which will highly benefit him if this is the case in 2018. He says he just focuses on improving–then the ranking will come with it.
Taking the rest of the season off has proven to be a highly successful method for top players. Roger Federer started the trend and then many players have followed. Last year both Federer and Nadal decided to terminate their respective seasons and then they came back so much stronger. Federer has won two Slams (his first in five years), whereas Nadal has won his first in three years and he has reclaimed the World #1 ranking. The pair have simply dominated the year so far and are head and shoulders above everyone else. Why can’t Murray, Djokovic, and even Wawrinka do the same? The success that Federer and Nadal have had have definitely caught Murray’s eye and their results may persuade Andy Murray to follow in their footsteps.
Andy Murray has been denied the chance to showcase his extraordinary talent this year because of frustrating injuries. He knows what his options are and revealed that he will make his decision in “the next few days.” A wise decision may be to end his season now and focus his attention on 2018, where he can start fresh. It is a successful formula, after all.