Andy Murray has revealed “smugness” displayed by a “doctor/surgeon” was the “biggest motivation” in his attempt to return to the Grand Slam arena.
It just really got me. I was not happy. I would say that was the thing that gave me the biggest motivation because at that moment I had obviously been going through a difficult time, had the operation and I felt that there was a bit of smugness to what he told me Andy Murray
Murray aims to start taking a big bite of the Big Apple’s US Open against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka on Tuesday (Sep 1).
It will be Britain’s former world No.1’s first major singles campaign since a hip operation involved a metal plate being inserted in the joint in January 2019.
Murray, who had just played his last slam singles at the Australian Open before surgery, was told by a medical practitioner such invasive surgery would spell the end of his career at the highest level.
And after the ‘op’, he and his wife Kim bumped into the same “doctor/surgeon” who uttered the words which provided him with the key stimulus to get back to the big-time.
Murray, 33, who won the first of his three Slams in New York, has suffered hip problems since limping out of 2017 Wimbledon shortly after the trouble surfaced at that year’s French Open.
He said: “There is one person in particular that helped me. It was the doctor/surgeon who told me after Wimbledon in 2017 that I didn’t have long left and you could have surgery – resurfacing or hip replacement – but you won’t play professional sport again.
“It was weird timing, I actually bumped into him the morning after I had my hip resurfacing when I took my first steps on the new hip with the crutches.
“And he walked past me in the hallway and he smiled at me and said to my wife, ‘I told him he was going to have to do this’.
“It just really got me. I was not happy. I would say that was the thing that gave me the biggest motivation because at that moment I had obviously been going through a difficult time, had the operation and I felt that there was a bit of smugness to what he told me.
“That was kind of enough for me. And I was actually going to send him a bottle of wine to say thanks for the motivation once I had got back on the court competing again, but I haven’t brought myself to do that yet.”
Murray, though, added: “If you had asked me the day after I had the operation, I was in bits and would have said no. For the few weeks afterwards, definitely I would have said not.
“But with each month that passed, yes I started to believe. I was a bit p****d off I wasn’t allowed to play singles at Wimbledon that year even though it was only a few months after I had the operation because actually, I was feeling good physically in terms of no pain.
“I didn’t really know until I started playing practice sets post Wimbledon and beat a few guys in practice in Washington – I was playing a few guys in practice sets there. I went to Canada and beat some good players in practice sets there. I was like, ‘OK, I think I am going to be all right here’.
“It was probably not until I got back on the tour and played guys in singles that I actually really believed it. That was probably a good four or five months later.
“But certainly, at the time, pre-surgery and post-surgery, no I didn’t think I would be able to. But that is because I was told that I wouldn’t.
“(I was) told that if you have this operation there is a good chance you are not going to be able to play high-level singles again. And I didn’t have anyone else to look at. I was going into the dark a little bit.”
Having recovered from further injury troubles after winning the European Open towards the end of last year, Murray defeated world No.7 Alexander Zverev on 24 August. It was one of his victories at the Masters Series event switched from Cincinnati to New York, his first over a top-tenner since the 2017 French Open.
He said: “They were the first matches I had played in ten months. Playing two two-and-a-half hour matches in the heat of the day was difficult, but my body will learn fast. It has been playing tennis matches its whole life. I think it will adjust to what it is required to do.”
There are no fans allowed to attend the US Open due to Covid-19.
Murray said: “I think it’s going to be difficult for the players mentally. There are people saying that some of the players will find it challenging playing without fans. It is difficult, but the level of tennis is what’s important if you can block out all of the weirdness of playing in big stadiums without a crowd.
“I actually felt OK doing that last week. It didn’t feel too bad in the matches, but it will be tricky. I play my first match on Arthur Ashe. Some of the best atmospheres that I’ve ever played in have been on that court. To go out there in such a huge stadium and have literally no one in the stands is going to be weird.”
* Murray comments from the Press Association and The Independent newspaper.