Andy Murray had to scratch and claw for two-and-a-half hours on Monday evening in Rotterdam to rally past Robin Haase into the second round of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament. The former World No. 1 is not afraid of admitting that the path back to his best tennis is not proving a simple one two years on from his most recent hip surgery.
“It’s hard, it’s not easy. I’ve played some really good stuff in practice. I’ve been extremely competitive in all of the practices that I’ve had with top players,” Murray said. “It’s been a bit of a struggle actually since I had the break with coronavirus. Just haven’t played well to be honest with you, and it’s not easy. Every time I lose a match, I’m getting told to retire, that I should stop playing, that I’m finished and I’ve got nothing left and it’s sad and all of these things.
“I feel like I’m playing for my career just now each time I step on the court, which is a motivation in some ways, but it also adds a bit of extra stress. There’s a bit of extra doubt there. On top of that, I’m playing with a metal hip, which is hard. Trust me, it’s not easy. It’s a big challenge for me just now and one that I’ll meet head on, but it’s not easy and the past few months have been a bit of a struggle.”
The 33-year-old has enjoyed success during his comeback. In October 2019, he won an ATP Tour title at the European Open. Players the Scot has defeated include Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini and Stan Wawrinka. Because of that, Murray doesn’t pay close attention to those who question his current level.
“These are top players that I was playing against and competing well against and physically now I’m in a better place than I was then… Why should I stop? Because I lost a match last week against someone that people would expect me to win against?” Murray said, referencing his loss against Egor Gerasimov last week in Montpellier. “The guy’s a good player… everyone out there can play. I’m not on the top of my game just now, [but] once I get there I believe I’ll win matches more competitively.
“But why? Why should I stop? Tell me a good reason for why I should stop playing. I could still compete with the best players in the world with one hip, so I think that’s quite amusing, really.”
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To Murray, it’s not a question of whether he is capable of beating the elite players on the ATP Tour. The World No. 123 doesn’t feel he has to prove his level because of those victories he has earned.
“I need to do it consistently and I need to physically stay fit for a period of time. That’s what I need to do,” Murray said. “My skill hasn’t changed. You can ask the guys that I’m practising with, unless all of them are just holding back against me in practice and feel sorry for me.”
Murray admitted that after testing positive for COVID-19 and self-isolating in January, it took some time for him to find his footing again during training. But the 46-time tour-level titlist is keen to show the level he has found on the practice court in recent weeks.
“Tonight’s match, that could help a lot. Things could turn around quickly getting through that,” Murray said. “Obviously you lose the match it’s again like, ‘What’s he doing out here?’ I could have lost that match 6-2, 6-4 and been getting crushed. To get through it is a good effort.”
The former World No. 1 will next play red-hot Russian Andrey Rublev or American qualifier Marcos Giron, who has also had hip surgeries.
“Let’s see what happens the rest of this week and over the next few months. Hopefully I’ll start to play better tennis,” Murray said. “If physically I was struggling I would be really disappointed and flat about it, but my tennis will get better.”