Tough Call: Will Andy Murray return to the top of the men's game?

by: | January 03, 2018

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Every week, Tennis Channel and will be introducing a Tough Call around a thought-provoking topic—and our panel of experts will chime in both on-air and online. Be sure to join the discussion, weigh in on our polls, or comment on Facebook and Twitter using #TennisToughCall.

Here is this week's edition of Tough Call: Will Andy Murray make it back to the top of the men’s game?

Reasons he will:

~ Any player who has won three Grand Slam titles, made another eight Grand Slam finals and reached No. 1 in the world definitely knows how to do it again.

~ It’s far too soon to start writing him off. It’s only been four and a half months since he was ranked No. 1, and the last time he played, at Wimbledon last summer, he was No. 1.

~ The last time he missed a Grand Slam due to injury—the 2013 French Open, due to a back injury—he won his first two tournaments back at Queen’s Club and Wimbledon. So we can assume that he’ll only return to the tour when he knows he’s ready to win.

Reasons he won't:

~ This hip injury could end up being the biggest injury of his career. If Murray he pulls out of the Australian Open, it’ll be just the second time he’s had to miss two Grand Slams in a row (he missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2007).

~ After finishing his incredible 2016 season at No. 1, Murray was already struggling to stay on top in 2017, winning just one of the 11 tournaments he played before ending his season.

~ Though his longtime rivals, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, are still No. 1 and No. 2, a new wave of players stormed the Top 10 in 2017 and are only getting better. Six of the year-end Top 10 were born in the 1990s—there had never been more than two ‘90s-born players in a year-end Top 10 previously. Plus, there's Novak Djokovic to consider.


Our experts weigh in:

I don't see Murray again rising to No. 1 in the world. Returning to the Top 5 is entirely possible, and making it back to the Top 10 is almost inevitable. But I have real doubts that he will add any more majors to his collection. That would be a tall order, but I hope he proves me wrong.

At a time of reflection for Murray, we should all re-evaluate our expectations from the former No. 1. Uber-consistent results from January though October? That could be a thing of the past. Murray could be on the verge of taking some extended and perhaps necessary time off, and he'll surely reconsider his scheduling before he returns. But great heights at the biggest tournaments? We should still expect that from the great Scot. He's only 30, and if Federer, who looked all but finished not that long ago, can win two Grand Slam titles at 35, I'm positive Murray could win at least one more major before his mid-30s.

Hip injuries are tough to recover from, and given Murray’s age, there’s a chance this might be a career-ending injury. However, with intense rehab, there’s a strong possibility he’ll be able to climb back into the Top 5. Picking up another Slam will be tough, but if he teams up with Ivan Lendl again, it will happen.

Murray is contemplating undergoing surgery for what the BBC has reported is a torn labrum. Two other former No. 1 players, Lleyton Hewitt and Gustavo Kuerten, had hip surgeries, and neither was quite the same again. If Murray is forced to do the same at 30, winning majors and returning to the Top 5 will be a big ask.


It's obvious that his hip injury is serious, but it doesn't seem career threatening just yet. Murray is a top caliber athlete, and a former No. 1 with a stellar pedigree for winning often. While it's very possible another Grand Slam isn't in the cards, a Top 5 ranking is. He's too consistent and too dedicated to his craft to linger outside of the top rankings for long. 


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