Could new events help Andy Murray's return to action?

March 13, 2018

British tennis fans booking corporate hospitality for the Queen's Club Championships and the Championships, Wimbledon will be excited about the general level of tennis they are likely to see, with players such as Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic on show. But the man they want to see most is Andy Murray. 

This year, the anticipation will be all the greater as the Scot seeks to bounce back after his injury lay-off that ultimately led to him having hip surgery. 

While tennis lovers will be delighted if Murray can perform well at the Queen's Club and Wimbledon, the first priority will simply be to get back into action - and after declaring his surgery a success, the former world number one has said he may even be back in action before the start of the grass court season. 

Rather than taking part in the clay court season - which would bring more physical wear and tear - Murray may not start at one of two new challenger tour events in the UK, played on hard court surfaces. 

The Lawn Tennis Association has revealed these will take place in Glasgow and Loughborough, with the former, as the city of Murray's birth, being a compelling option. Indeed, in the press conference before his exhibition match at the SECC Hydro in the city last October, Murray mentioned the lack of an ATP tournament in Scotland as something he would love to have done something about.

As it is only a challenger event, the new tournament at the Scotstoun Tennis Centre will not have that status, but it will certainly gain plenty of attention if Murray can play there, with the event beginning on April 28th. 

Murray's other option is a new tournament at Loughborough, from May 19th-27th. If he can play in either - or both - of these events without ill-effects, it could give him enough court time to make a more competitive comeback.

The question is, just how soon can the Scot get back to the form that might see him challenge for Grand Slams? After his back surgery in 2013, Murray was never at his best through the following year. He was able to reach Grand Slam semi-finals, but not finals, with his physical limitations shown up by a poor record against fellow top ten players. However, the example provided by Roger Federer's extraordinary revival, after his return from injury 15 months ago, may provide an inspirational example. 

For Murray, therefore, the decisions that await will be all about trying to avoid the slow return to top form and fitness that followed his back operation and, instead, emulate the return to top form by Federer.

As Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams have found at Indian Wells, returning after a time out - albeit for very different reasons - is not easy. Indeed, it may be to Murray's advantage that he can enjoy playing at a level where he is likely to win against lowly-ranked opponents, even when rusty. While a challenger event may not be so challenging, it could prove the ideal start as Murray hopes to make his latest comeback the most successful yet. 
Image: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images from Keith Prowse subscription

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