By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
A year ago, Andy Murray left the Citi Open in tears. After securing a berth in the quarterfinals with a third consecutive three-set marathon win, Murray’s tank was empty. He wept openly on Stadium Court. The former world No.1 was physically spent and mentally drained. His aching hip was too much.
“I actually saw the end of that match a couple of weeks ago,” Murray said Monday, “and I was like, ‘I couldn’t walk.’ I was watching myself walking and I was like, ‘Wow. It was really bad.’ I was struggling a lot.”
Twelve months later, and now half a year removed from a second hip surgery, Murray is pain free. He returned to the Citi Open this week for a rare opportunity to play doubles with his brother Jamie.
The Murray brothers are among the headliners in a loaded Citi Open men’s doubles draw. The Murrays will face the French tandem of Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in their opening match on Wednesday. When they do, Andy Murray will be in a far different state compared to his last visit to DC.
“I’m really enjoying myself,” he said as he met with the media for nearly 20 minutes Monday.
Murray looked and sounded very much at ease throughout his press conference. He spoke of the advice he received before undergoing a second surgery (doubles legend Bob Bryan was among those he consulted) and what’s still lacking in his all-around game (cardio).
There is work to be done, sure, but there’s also a healthy confidence.
“Now, just not being in pain, it's amazing what that will do to you,” he said. “Like just how I feel every single day when I wake up, it's amazing. I couldn't remember what that was like. So, these last few months have been brilliant.
“There are things I can do on the court now that when I played here last year, I was winning tough matches against good players, [but] I can do way better that I did last year. I couldn't serve properly here; I couldn't use my right leg properly at all. Now I can extend it back behind me, I can push off for serves, it's brilliant.”
Murray underwent the second hip operation in January and returned to doubles competition in June. In his first tournament back, he and partner Feliciano Lopez won the title at Queen’s Club. The two are set to play again next week at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
For now, Murray remains limited to playing doubles. A return to singles, he says, is close.
“In terms of how I'm moving and feeling and pulling up the next day, from these practices, I'm really happy with where I'm at,” said the three-time Grand Slam champion. “So, I think I'm quite close, but there's stuff that will need to get better. But also, if I was to play a tournament in a few weeks’ time, I could do it.”
Murray said a best-case scenario would be a return to singles competition at the Cincinnati Masters in two weeks. He acknowledged, though, that it may be longshot and that a post-U.S. Open return may be more realistic. Either way, he’s inching closer.
This also begs the question: Will Murray simply be returning to singles competition or can he return to being the player that once joined Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to round out the Big Four?
“The question I sort of ask more recently is ‘Why not?’” he said. “What’s the reason for why I shouldn’t be able to get back to I where I was? There’s no good reason for why I shouldn’t be able to. It just takes time for the muscles to recover that were cut during the operation. But once they’re fully healed, which should take somewhere from 9-to-12 months, why shouldn’t I be able to? What’s the reason?”