Andy Murray injury fears as he retires from Queen’s

andy murray injury fears as he retires from queen’s

Murray appeared to be in considerable discomfort and received treatment on court before retiring - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Andy Murray’s potential Wimbledon farewell is in major doubt after he withdrew from his second-round match at Queen’s Club after five awkward games in which he could barely move his body.

After this halting effort, the prospect of a fitting farewell at next month’s Championships or the subsequent Olympic Games in Paris appears to be receding fast.

Having limped his way gingerly onto the court, Murray called the trainer to the court at the first changeover, and then underwent a medical time-out during which the trainer appeared to be working on his right hip. The treatment also included some manipulation of his lower back and the extension of his hamstrings.

Given that Murray had been warming up a couple of hours earlier with significantly more fluency, the most likely explanation – and this is only a theory – would seem to be some sort of back spasm shortly before the start of play.

The official reason for the retirement, as given some 25 minutes after the match, was simply “Back injury”.

It had been clear, after Murray’s first-round win over Alexei Popyrin on Tuesday evening, that he was not in the best of shape.

A hard-fought victory in his 1,000th match on tour should have been cause for celebration. Instead, Murray concluded the match by telling on-court interviewer Karthi Gnanasegaram that “I’ve felt better. I didn’t realise, my mum told me it’s my 1,000th match on tour. A lot of matches and a lot of wear and tear on the body. It’s not easy. But I’m pushing through it.”

Opponent: ‘It’s a disappointing way to finish’

Murray had only retired from four previous matches in his career, and was determined to try his best to finish this one. But he could barely hobble from one foot to the other.

andy murray injury fears as he retires from queen’s

Murray seemed determined to continue but accepted that he could not do so - Andy Rain/Shutterstock

His Australian opponent, Jordan Thompson, cannily exploited Murray’s issues by throwing in a couple of drop shots. All is fair in love and tennis. After almost 25 uncomfortable minutes, in which only one party was able to play tennis properly, Murray went over to shake hands.

In fact, this was the second time that Thompson had defeated a below-par Murray at Queen’s. They met in the first round here in 2017, in the match that revealed the first signs of Murray’s rapid hip deterioration in that season. A few weeks later, he would lose in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon while being virtually unable to walk.

“Never the way you want to go through, especially with a great champion like Andy,” said Thompson afterwards. “At this tournament he has dominated, and he loves the grass. I was actually really looking forward to coming out and playing against him today. It’s a disappointing way to finish.”

Video from before today’s match appears to show Murray walking heavily even before reaching the court.

Murray has also been suffering recently with a sore back and ruptured ankle ligaments, which he damaged at the Miami Open in March. He pulled out of a Challenger event on grass in Surbiton but had planned to play a full part at Queen’s, where he has won the the title five times.

Wimbledon starts in less than two weeks. The grass-court grand slam was already likely to be Murray’s last, given that he has hinted strongly that he will retire this year. Today’s injury, however, raises the possibility that Murray will not be able to play at Wimbledon at all.

Clay-court season may have been a mistake

In his pre-tournament press conference on Sunday, Murray said that his back was “fine”. But he had previously admitted that he had struggled during the recent clay-court season.

“In my prime, clay always caused issues with my back,” Murray explained, after losing in the first round of Roland Garros three weeks ago. “So I would always have a procedure the week before the French Open. I didn’t this year [and] it has not been that comfortable.

“I am hoping when I get home I will have a procedure on my back and have a few days’ rest and then I should be fine.”

With the benefit of hindsight, it feels as though Murray erred by playing the clay-court season at all. He wanted to say farewell to the French Open, a tournament where he reached the final in 2016. But by doing so, he could have seriously compromised his chances of competing at Queen’s and at Wimbledon – two of his most successful tournaments over the years.

When fit, he remains a fiendishly difficult opponent on grass, because of his ability to stay balanced on the slippery lawns and his knack for keeping the ball low over the net. Such skills were evident against Alexei Popyrin on Tuesday, but the challenge of coming back for more, only 24 hours later, proved too much.

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