In the big picture, it probably was wise for Andy Murray to have pulled the plug on his year after the U.S. Open and Davis Cup in order to undergo minor back surgery. Sure, it robbed him of the opportunity to return to London for the annual ATP World Tour Finals. But it also ensured—theoretically, at least—that he’ll have a pain-free and potentially outstanding 2014.
The most junior member of tennis’ Big Four had a splendid nine months in 2013, going 43-8 with four titles. Murray played just three of the Grand Slams (he skipped Roland Garros because of his back) and made the finals at two. Murray lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open final, but avenged himself in his historic win at Wimbledon.
There’s no such thing as a “good” time for surgery, and no predicting how a player will recover from an extended absence, either physically or mentally. Presumably, though, Murray will be pain-free in 2014.
Ad-In: Murray may get a nice psychological boost out of Rafael Nadal’s recent history; the theory being that the seven-month layoff in some way enabled Rafa to return refreshed and eager. In an 11-month sport, that can mean lot. The lengthy hiatus presumably gave Murray an opportunity to re-charge his batteries, assess his ambitions, and work on his game.
Ad-Out: Back surgery is only “minor” in a technical sense, especially for a tennis pro whose body is subject to so many jarring foot plants and changes of direction on hard courts. Murray could get into trouble if his back doesn’t respond as expected, or if he has trouble finding his focus or game after the long break.
As we approach the new year, we'll take a closer look at what's in store for the past year's top performers. To read more of our 2014 Season Previews, click here.