Andy Murray must not rule out a third Wimbledon title – providing he shakes off hip injury, says John McEnroe

Charlie Eccleshare
The Telegraph
John McEnroe (right) believes Andy Murray can still beat any of the 'big four' on his day, providing he can once and for all shake off his hip problems - Getty Images Sport
John McEnroe (right) believes Andy Murray can still beat any of the 'big four' on his day, providing he can once and for all shake off his hip problems - Getty Images Sport

As tennis watchers eagerly anticipate the belated emergence of a new generation, John McEnroe believes next year could instead be defined by another renaissance story. 

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have all enjoyed their tennis equivalents of a comeback tour in the last couple of years, but what about the fourth and final member of the erstwhile 'big four', the forgotten man Andy Murray?

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"I’m sure Andy looks at those three and says: ‘I should be able to do something akin to what they’ve done’. At least come back to sort of what he was before," says seven-time grand-slam champion McEnroe, who is in London competing at the veterans Champions Tennis event. 

"If he does that, if you look at the top five, it’s not as if he can’t look at those players and think on a given day at Wimbledon that he couldn’t go the distance potentially."

McEnroe does, though, issue a caveat: Murray needs to have fully shaken off the hip troubles that have dogged him since the summer of 2017. "Almost all of it depends on his level of health," he says. 

A quick recap on Murray's hip saga: Having limped his way through last year's Wimbledon, Murray did not play again for 11 months. He underwent surgery at the start of 2018 and began a comeback in June that saw him win seven out of 12 matches and break down in tears following an emotional win over Marius Copil. He then ended his year in September to focus on making "big improvements" for 2019, where he will begin in Brisbane next month ahead of the Australian Open. 

<span>Murray returned&nbsp;– though not to normal service&nbsp;– in June before ending his season in September</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images&nbsp; </span>
Murray returned – though not to normal service – in June before ending his season in September Credit: Getty Images 

Murray's current ranking is a lowly No 259, but McEnroe, who himself suffered with hip problems towards the end of his career, says: "Clearly he had a serious hip injury and you could see that when he came back he didn’t seem to be 100 per cent, so I’m sure he’s just hoping he can get a couple more years. If he does that I would expect he would be in the top 10 within six to nine months, depending on how many events he does play. 

"But I would see him coming back quickly if he’s healthy. He is doing everything in his power to get back to full strength."

Recent footage Murray posted of himself performing an elaborate gymnastics routine certainly attested to the idea that he is leaving nothing to chance in his attempt to not just come back but to "come all the way back" as McEnroe's former mixed doubles partner Mary Carrillo would put it. 

Murray may also benefit from taking the reluctant step to have surgery, says McEnroe: "I never had a hip surgery. Sometimes I wish I had explored that. It wasn’t something that was thought to be necessary but I know that my hip issue bothered me since I was 26 or 27 years old, and it’s still not right, and never will be." 

McEnroe's failing hip is one of the reasons this year's appearance at the Royal Albert Hall for Champions Tennis will be his last, as he dials down his playing commitments. His busy broadcasting schedule and role as a team captain in Federer's Laver Cup mean McEnroe remains a high-profile figure in the sport, but he admits there are a couple of players he would relish coaching.

<span>Murray is hoping to enjoy improved fortunes in 2019</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images&nbsp; </span>
Murray is hoping to enjoy improved fortunes in 2019 Credit: Getty Images 

The first is the teenage Canadian Denis Shapovalov, whose shot-making skills and single-handed leftie backhand remind McEnroe of his own game. The second is Australian enigma Nick Kyrgios, who at 23 continues to punch below his weight and whom McEnroe has worked with at Laver Cup-level. 

"Nick’s an extremely talented player," McEnroe says. "Out of maybe all the players in last 10 years in terms of pure tennis ability, he could be the best. Naturally when you see a guy not doing what he can do, you feel like it would be nice to help make a difference. 

"He’s a good team guy. I like him as a person. It’s just that he’s not able to compete. Half the time he’s not competing so how in the world can you win a big event if you’re not competing half the time?"

Where McEnroe is sceptical about Kyrgios's desire to improve, he is more optimistic that one of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Karen Khachanov and Borna Coric can build on excellent years and start competing seriously for grand-slam titles. Of Britain's Kyle Edmund, ranked No 14 after a breakthrough 12 months, McEnroe says: "I think it’s realistic that he can be in the top 10, but he’s going to have to be extremely careful because more people will be coming after him."

McEnroe admits that he is hopeful the next generation of players can soon start to make "overdue" inroads at the majors, but his one wish for the new year concerns the sport's administration. 

Confirmation that tennis will have two men’s team events  the revamped Davis Cup and ATP Cup  within less than six weeks of each other from next November has caused widespread consternation. The political wrangling and accusations of broken promises have made the issue tennis's equivalent of Brexit.

"One of the most important things about the sport is they need to be on the same page, and there needs to be more partnerships," says McEnroe, who it should be pointed out through his role as a team captain in the Laver Cup plays a prominent role in tennis's third men's team competition.  

"For example this latest Davis Cup proposal along with the ATP team championship proposal. To me they should be in one event. That should be something that should be a priority for our sport. God forbid these powers that be work together."

  • John McEnroe will be making his last appearance at Champions Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday and Friday. Tickets available at www.championstennis.co.uk 

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