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Comment: Major question mark hangs over Andy Murray's future after Wimbledon withdrawal

Bridge too far: Andy Murray played just three matches prior to his decision to pull out of Wimbledon last night
Bridge too far: Andy Murray played just three matches prior to his decision to pull out of Wimbledon last night

By Edmund Curran

Away from the 30,000 spectators who thronged Wimbledon yesterday, I sat only a few feet from where Andy Murray was putting himself and his hip through a final hour of all-out tennis endeavour.

Murray was on Court 15 in the shadow of the Centre Court, his coach, trainer and physio watching him closely as he fired down 120mph serves and put his body on the line for the second hour of his final practice.

All around on Wimbledon's other outside courts, the stars of the tennis world were doing the same throughout the morning and afternoon.

The Williams sisters had practised earlier. Rafael Nadal was looking as determined and passionate as ever, ten years since he beat Roger Federer in one of the greatest Wimbledon finals of them all. Perhaps, most impressive of all in practice was Novac Djokovic out on court 7, looking lean, focused and superbly athletic.

It was the moment of tennis truth for all of them but none more so than the former champion and icon of British tennis, Andy Murray. Could he make it past the opening round? Initially he and many of us thought he might especially given his relatively easy first round draw against the Frenchman Benoit Paire.

Sadly, however, we know now that it is not to be and a major question mark looms over whether his immense talent will show itself again on the courts where he thrilled millions and won Olympic and Wimbledon titles.

Watching him at the weekend from just beyond the tramlines on court 15, was akin, I felt, to assessing a thoroughbred racehorse on its final gallop before the Derby, hoping upon hope that it would not pull up lame.

Murray had chosen his practice opponent - the diminutive Diego Schwartzman, seeded 14 at Wimbledon - to give him as hard a test as possible and the Argentinian did not disappoint. Time and again, his powerful ground strokes had Murray scurrying flat-out from one side of the baseline to the other.

There were occasional flashes of the brilliance which took Murray to number one in the world but also a fair share of protesting 'Aaahs' from him as shots sailed beyond the baseline or into the net.

On the evidence of this pumped-up hour of hard-hitting tennis, Murray's hitting partner had the edge and the signs were ominous that the Scotsman's problems had not gone away.

However, what mattered was his demeanour when he sat down at change of ends after chasing down his opponent's shots and stretching his body to extremes.

After his practice he showed no apparent sign of physical stress though he did occasionally test the flexibility of his left leg, pulling his ankle up underneath his thigh and pressing his knee as if to ensure it was sound.

Each time he sat down at change of ends, his coaching team stood over him seeking his reaction and any tell-tale sign of weakness in his body.

He and they seemed mightily relieved that he came through but, of course, they also accepted that the deciding factor was how Murray might feel later.

In the end, despite his smiles as he strode off court, his body would tell him in the hours ahead that he was incapable of playing his first round despite the determined efforts he had made to do so. Initially he was optimistic even though as he walked towards the changing rooms, he looked as if he was dragging his left leg slightly and appeared to be twisting his left hip a little as if to save it.

But what appeared to bother Murray most at the weekend was the standard of his play in that final practice and the realisation that he was still far from his best and unlikely to be a real contender for this year's Wimbledon title.

An hour after that practice I asked him in the Wimbledon interview room, about his apparent annoyance with his shot-making. "I watched your final practice. At times you seemed frustrated with your shots. What are your views on that?"

His answer: "I'd like to be playing better. I haven't been practising long. I'm competing with the best players in the world and of course you notice things that are maybe not quite where you want them to be or where you remember them being a year ago."

Andy Murray was clearly playing tennis on the basis of one day at a time. All around him at Wimbledon were amazed that he had even made it to the championships this year but that final hour of hard practice told its sad tale and proved too much for him to have any chance of showing the Murray of yesteryear.

Whether he will ever do so again must now be in great doubt. The illustrious career of Britain's greatest tennis talent since Fred Perry in the 1930s now hangs in the balance.

Yes he had played three matches in recent weeks and up until the last moment, the very eve of Wimbledon, thought he could keep on going, honing his weakened game as he went along, and perhaps, vainly hoping his hip would sustain the rigour of a long five set match of four hours or more, as Wimbledon demands.

I hope I did not witness the last of Andy Murray at Wimbledon on that near-deserted court 15, but only he and his body know what the future now holds.

Belfast Telegraph


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