Andy Murray gets new comeback target

March 5, 2018

With Roger Federer tearing up the record books yet again last month to become the oldest world number one, it is perhaps easy to forget that 12 months ago Andy Murray was in the same position. However, after a forgettable year blighted by a hip injury that ultimately needed surgery, Murray is no longer even the British number one.

The rise of Kyle Edmund to overtake Murray in the rankings was inevitable once the South Africa-born Yorkshireman reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Edmund has himself had a hip injury - albeit a relatively minor one - that has stopped him playing since Melbourne, but he expects to play in the ATP 1000 tournaments in Miami and Indian Wells. 

Having bolstered his points total down under, Edmund is now up to 24th, with Murray dipping to 29th. At the age of 23, Edmund will surely make the British number one spot his own permanently in time, but he will give the Scot an immediate target when he does return.  

When he underwent hip surgery in Melbourne after deciding he couldn't play in the Australian Open, Murray made the grass court season his target. That will delight and excite fans at the Queen's Club, where he has won the title a record five times, as well as across London at the Championships, Wimbledon

Indeed, the Scot is now optimistic he will be back before the grass court season commences, although it may be stretching expectations for him to appear in the French Open. 

Having battled so long with his hip issues, simply getting back on court is a key aim for Murray. Indeed, that was how Federer spoke before his return to action at the start of 2017, when even the Swiss legend - or so he told the world - could not have imagined how brilliantly he could roll back the years. Nonetheless, the example of Federer could be just what Murray needs to push him back into Grand Slam-winning shape, if not by the time Wimbledon comes around, then soon enough. 

Much as the tennis world has been marvelling at Federer's sustained excellence, it is also in need of some strong competition. Rafael Nadal's own troublesome hip has forced him to pull out of Miami and Indian Wells, while Novak Djokovic has had to undergo elbow surgery. There is a danger that Federer continues his dominance as much by default as excellence.

Tennis legend Boris Becker is among those keenest to see Murray back in action, commenting last week: "Tennis needs him; tennis is not the same without Andy Murray.

"Once he's fully fit, he's one of the best players in the world. Then it's a question of time." 

Before aiming at Grand Slams or world number one, however, there is that small matter of overtaking Edmund for the British number one spot. Edmund himself responded to his elevation by reflecting on the circumstances in which he got there.

"As proud as I am, I would have been much happier had Andy stayed healthy and occupied his place at the very top where he belongs," he remarked, before expressing the hope that he and Murray will soon be battling for the British number one spot in "legitimate" fashion.

Indeed, if Edmund can fulfil his potential and challenge for the big prizes in the next couple of years, that may provide an extra incentive to Murray to produce a late-career burst of success. 

Image: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images from Keith Prowse subscription

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