TWELVE months ago, Andy Murray was on the verge of taking over the world as the new No 1. Today, he faces long and difficult discussions with his team: should he play again this year?
Murray, now ranked No.2 and who will soon lose that position to Roger Federer, tearfully announced his decision to withdraw from the US Open on Saturday.
The hip problem that has blighted his summer has not healed and he must now form a plan of action: rest and more rehab in the hope of getting back on court before the end of the year, complete rest and an early end to the season or surgery to cure the problem once and for all.
He faced the same tough choices four years ago when he opted to go under the surgeon’s knife to repair a chronic back issue. The procedure was successful but it cost him the best part of the 2014 season as he tried to get back to full match fitness.
On Saturday, Murray left his decision until 20 minutes before facing the media. And when he did speak, it was difficult. Struggling to compose himself before he made his announcement, he turned to the conference moderator and said haltingly: “This is why I didn’t want to come in here.”
Murray will not rush into any big decisions. He has consulted hip specialists far and wide and all have their own views on the best way to solve his problems. But Murray knows his body and he knows the implications for his career.
The Scot is 30 and if he wants to prolong his playing life, he must make the right move now and so he will take his time before deciding what to do next.
It does mean that his charity event, Andy Murray Live, could be in doubt. Due to be held at The Hydro in Glasgow on November 7, Murray was delighted to have persuaded Federer to join him in Scotland. But if Murray cannot play, the event will have to be rescheduled.
Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep would probably not mind if their first round match-up tonight were to be to be rescheduled as the US Open begins today.
The two have met six times in the past with Sharapova winning every time. But this time is different.
Halep was one of many players who opposed the flurry of wildcards that were thrown Sharapova’s way when she returned from a 15-month drugs ban in April but she would not be drawn into that argument again in New York when the US Tennis Federation offered the Russian a free pass into the main draw.
What troubles Halep more is the fact that she is just five ranking points away from Karolina Pliskova and the top spot in the pecking order. But three times this summer she has been one match away from No 1 and three times she has failed – at the French Open, at Wimbledon and in Cincinnati. Now she has another chance provided she can keep her nerves in check.
“Enough is enough,” she said. “Maybe I change. If I’m not thinking about it, maybe I will be more relaxed and I can get it. If I deserve No.1, I will win it. If not, that’s it.”