Henman: Andy Murray 'will be pretty frustrated' as coronavirus delays comeback
Tim Henman says Andy Murray will ‘be pretty frustrated’ that the tennis season has been shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, as he closed in on his latest injury comeback.
Murray was targeting a return to competitive action at the Miami Open, which was scheduled to run from March 25 to April 5 before the Covid-19 crisis took a hold of the world.
Both the clay-court season, which traditionally runs from early April until early June, and the British grass-court summer – including Wimbledon – have been wiped out by the virus along with the vast majority of sporting events around the globe.
All professional tennis has been suspended until July 13 – a date that may well be pushed back further – and former British No. 1 Henman believes Murray will be cursing his luck at the latest delay to his comeback from injury.
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Since hobbling out of Wimbledon in 2017, Murray has made several stabs at returning to the ATP Tour – attempts that peaked when beating Stan Wawrinka at an ATP 250 event in Antwerp last October.
A pelvic injury forced him out of the Australian summer and now a return is nowhere in sight as the world grapples with the pandemic.
‘I think from Andy’s point of view – and I have seen him practise a bit a few weeks ago when it looked there might be chance to go to Miami,’ said Henman.
‘And after being out of the game as long as he has – and now with the progress he has made – he will be pretty frustrated because he is getting close to, I would have thought, to getting back out on the court.
‘It is four years when you think he got to the quarters against Sam Querrey on one leg. And then has missed out and played doubles and mixed.
‘It emphasises how much tennis he has missed. He has got to keep working at his fitness and get back to, or close as he can, to 100% and hopefully he will get the opportunity later in the year.’
Of course, the former world No. 4 was at pains to – rightly – stress that tennis is far from the priority amid these strange times.
And despite the setback for Murray, Heman thinks he still has time on his side.
‘You would like to think so because he has missed so much tennis perhaps it will give him the opportunity if his body and his hip enables him to to play longer in age terms,’ added Henman.
The eight-time Wimbledon champion admitted he was ‘devastated’ to see the grass-court Grand Slam called off for the first time since World War II but he expressed his total understanding of the decision to Henman, one of the senior committee members at the All England Club.
‘It is the same for everyone. Speaking to other players, someone like Federer coming to the end of his career surely and the opportunity at Wimbledon has been taken away this year.
‘I think he has expressed he is devastated but understands the decision. It will affect a lot of people in a lot of different ways but it is important to keep perspective on it as well.
‘I spoke to Andy, Roger a couple of times and Feliciano Lopez who is involved in the tournament in Madrid. And a few text messages with Tommy Haas. I have spoken to Paul Annacone a lot in the States. Jim Courier as well.
‘It is very challenging times and no-one really knows. We have just got to sit tight, follow the guidelines and stay healthy hopefully and we will get through it.
Everyone was 100% understanding. People were beginning to expect the decision. 100% across the board.
‘It is going to have an impact. It is not ideal but I do think it is very important to keep perspective. It is a delay in tennis, it is a delay in people’s careers but some of them will have plenty of opportunities in the future.
‘Some have had plenty of opportunities in the past. So we just have to be patient.’
While discussions of the impact on wealthy athletes careers are frivolous at this time, with the coronavirus death toll continuing to rise worldwide, this is a time of serious challenge for those lower down the rankings looking to make ends meet.
‘When you are looking at the tennis fraternity, they are all self-employed and the net gets wider when you are talking about coaches and physical trainers and physios,’ said Henman.
‘They are self-employed so it is not necessarily talking about a pay cut because if they are not working, they are not getting paid, but again it is part of looking at the bigger picture.
‘Whether it is hardship fund or what, I don’t have the answers for that right now but I think there is going to be a collective desire to get around the table at the right moment and say: What can we do moving forward from this?’
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