Andy murray will have to remodel his game again, whenever he returns kevin mitchell sport the guardian risks of hip replacement

Murray himself has contributed to the noise by … saying absolutely nothing. Usually active on Twitter and Instagram, he has been uncharacteristically quiet lately. The Guardian understands he will issue an update soon. His silence betrays anxiety.

So, into this void pops speculation. While his name was on the entry list for Queen’s Club on Tuesday – his stated second comeback tournament ahead of Wimbledon, after a workout in Rosmalen in the Netherlands just after the French Open – it transpires he has not been seen training at the All England Club lately.

Some took that as a sign he has encountered a setback and is not fit enough to practise at full tilt. It is possible Murray is being super-cautious two months out from Wimbledon and had reset his training schedule. He has always been sensitive to the most minor twinge – not without justification in such a physical environment – and he would see little sense in taking unnecessary risks.


If he is uncertain of his progress, so are the rest of us.

So there are multiple unanswered negatives flying about, combining to make, well, more negativity. There is cause for concern, obviously, because for months Murray has let it be known through his team that he was ahead of schedule in his recovery after a hip operation in Melbourne on 8 January.

Murray is, by nature, a private person. When he came into the spotlight as a teenager at Wimbledon, having won the US Open boys’ championship, he could hardly have looked more poorly equipped to handle the attention. He was quiet, skinny, obviously talented and here for the long term. Over the years, he has grown mightily in self-belief, and physical stature.

He has done brilliantly, of course, winning Wimbledon twice after breaking through at the US Open. He has grown stronger, mentally and physically, and is regarded as one of the toughest players on the Tour. But he has never quite shaken off his reluctance to give too much away.

It has not been easy, as he points out occasionally. The type of tennis he plays makes more demands on his body than most. Part of his dilemma will be adjusting his game. He will not be able to grind in the same attritional way he has done since 2005. Because of the strain on his hip and the rest of the pivotal areas of his body, he will have to cut points short more often. He will be at the net a lot more, volleying. There will be more aggression.

Yet all this is against his nature. A brilliant shot-maker all through his youth, he tailored his style to suit the modern game, with spectacular results, dragging opponents into exhausting rallies then delivering the blade at just the right moment. Now he must change again – perhaps go back to the subtle touches he had to use constantly when playing older, bigger opponents growing up in Dunblane.

One thing is universally accepted: nobody has given more of himself to tennis. To see him sweat and strain up close is to witness a manically driven athlete in love with a game that often stabs him painfully in the hip, knees, wrists, elbows, back. There are not many unmarked areas on the Murray dartboard.

Murray has had surgery before, in 2014, to fix a chronic back complaint, but the hips are different. As Kyle Edmund said during the Brisbane Open in January – another tournament Murray pulled out of at the last minute, after the 2017 US Open – “Everything in tennis goes through the hips”. Edmund should know, because that is where he felt the dreaded shiver of pain at the end of his wonderful run to the semi‑finals of the Australian Open.

Which leads us away from Murray and on to Edmund, Britain’s new No1 in the Scot’s absence. On Wednesday in Madrid he scored a win as significant as any in his career, getting the better of a struggling Novak Djokovic 6-3 2-6 6-3 in an hour and 40 minutes. It not only launched him into the top 20, it gives him the confidence to know he can trade with these elite players on a regular basis.

Managing his game is a realisation Murray came to early in his career, except he had to make inroads against the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. To reach that level, Murray spent every off-season in Miami building his body for the challenge. It cost him not just Christmas at home but the aggravation of physical sore points that had been lurking for years, such as his split knee-caps and a weakness in ankles and wrist.