Andy Murray’s long, winding road to recovery has taken another twist and he faces a nervous wait ahead of his latest attempted comeback.
It’s been a frustrating spell for three-time Grand Slam champion Murray. Seemingly on an upward trajectory after winning his first title since a hip resurfacing operation in Antwerp in October, a bone bruise forced him out of the Australian Open and inaugural ATP Cup and he is yet to play competitive tennis in 2020.
That could change as early as next month, with Murray tentatively targeting a return at the Masters 1000 event in Miami, but that’s far from a guarantee as he may require another surgical intervention – one that could leave his hopes of playing at Wimbledon in tatters.
Getting an ironclad diagnosis has proven difficult for Murray due to inflammation surrounding the hip but the latest theory is that heterotopic ossification – a side effect of hip surgery that causes abnormal bone growth in soft tissues – is causing the pain.
Should that be the case, something that will become clearer in the next month, Murray may require another small surgery to remove the bone, which can only happen once it has finished growing.
‘What I need to do just now is build up in these next couple of weeks to really test it,’ said Murray.
‘I will really test the hip out. Hopefully it responds fine. But if it doesn’t, then I need to potentially have that removed.
‘At the beginning I did have the bone bruise so there is a bit of a mixed picture there. The discomfort is around the groin area so if I have got a bone bruise in my pubis here, the discomfort and I guess the symptoms are all around the same spot.
‘For example, at the Davis Cup [in Madrid in November], the bone bruise was causing the soft tissue and everything around to stiffen up and spasm I guess.
‘Once that’s gone, maybe the other issue is not too bad, which is obviously the hope that we’ve got just now. It’s been unbelievably complex, challenging and difficult because it is not easy to get answers. You have to rule out all of the sinister issues first.’
Should he require surgery, it is possible the operation could only take place as late as May and leave him with a limited amount of time to recover for the grass-court season.
‘The thing for me that would be tough is if I would have to go ahead and have something done about this,’ he said.
‘It’s not that long an operation really in terms of the rehab and stuff. But it’s just if I wasn’t able to have it until May or whatever, with six to eight weeks rehab, then that would mean missing that period.
‘But hopefully the activity around this heterotopic ossification settles down. I’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.
‘If I have to have that removed because it is what is causing the problem, then that is a pain in the arse. But we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.’
He added: ‘Let’s say, if I have the scan and the bone is still active, I can’t have it removed until it is finished growing.
‘You would expect it to start to grow straight after the surgery, so from the day after the surgery in January last year. It is 12 to 14 months from the initial trauma basically, so I am now pretty much at 13 months since the operation, so I would hope in this period while I am building up and trying to basically test it out, I should know by the end of next month whether I’m good to play or not with it.
‘That’s what I have to wait for. And then the issue around that is if they can’t get to it with an arthroscope, which is obviously the hope, is that I would then have to be opened up again. That obviously takes longer to recover.
‘It’s not like a major operation to have it removed but it’s just if they cannot get there with an arthroscope to remove it, that is the issue.’
The good news is that there is no damage to his artificial hip and should he not require surgery, Murray would be open to competing in the clay-court season beyond Miami.
‘I would play on clay, for sure,’ said Murray. ‘But that’s the thing because if this is just from an impingement, then lots of people have impingements in joints and things and it doesn’t cause too much bother. But sometimes they can.
‘If physically I am fine and this responds well to the training again, there is no reason for me not to. In many ways, the clay should actually be better for a metal joint because it is softer impact wise.’
Ultimately, setback or not, Murray is clear about where he wants to go.
‘I want to play in the Slams again,’ said Murray. ‘That is the thing that I have missed over these last few years.
‘Missing the Australian Open for me this year was rough. At the end of last season I was actually starting to play pretty well, I was feeling good and then this happened.
‘I guess at Davis Cup for me I was not anticipating that it might be an issue, I was not thinking that I was going to be missing Australia, so that was tough.
‘I want to get back to playing in the slams. That’s what excites me and interests me. Again there is no reason why I can’t.’
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