Will Andy Murray be back to his best in 2018?

Will Andy Murray be back to his best in 2018?

British number one Andy Murray endured an injury-plagued second half of the 2017 tennis season, with a troublesome hip problem forcing the 30-year-old out of action for more than three months. Murray’s decision to miss the rest of the 2017 campaign was a wise one, giving his body an extended rest and time to recuperate well ahead of 2018. However, the question remains whether Murray can regain his place at the summit of the world rankings is up for debate.

Andy’s mother Judy also believes he will benefit hugely from this extended break from the game. Whether or not he will be able to hit the ground running and finally win the Australian Open, after falling at the final hurdle in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016, respectively, remains to be seen. In the world of tennis betting, oddsmakers have Murray as the fourth favorite to prevail in Melbourne while Novak Djokovic has 10/3 odds to claim his seventh Australian Open title.

Much will depend on the fitness of Murray’s rivals: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Although a persistent elbow injury forced 12-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic to cut his 2017 campaign short, Nadal finished 2017 at the top of the world rankings. Veteran Federer, however, remained a serious contender never be discounted despite his advancing years. There’s also a new wave of youngsters coming through the ranks along with a handful of other top-10 pros returning from spells on the sidelines, such as Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic.

It will be interesting to see Murray’s approach to Grand Slam events in 2018 after the Scotsman announced that he parted with coach and mentor Ivan Lendl in November for the second time. During Lendl’s second period in partnership with Murray, he helped Andy through a victorious spell of 52 wins in 55 matches. However, Murray’s prolonged spell on the sidelines has seemingly changed his mindset, opting to prepare for the Australian Open without an official coach, although long-time pal and former pro Jamie Delgado remains a useful soundboard.

Before the end of 2017, Murray got in some useful practice against legend Roger Federer in an exhibition match for UNICEF U.K. and Sunny-sid3up in Glasgow. Murray has been making the right noises about featuring in Brisbane to get some competitive matches under his belt before the Australian Open. Current world number one Rafael Nadal has also confirmed his attendance at the 2018 Brisbane International, which will give this event more exposure than the early season ATP Doha tournament, which has notoriously offered richer prize money.

Murray believes spending more time Down Under will give the foundations a credible tilt at the Australian Open and an injury-free 2018. “Starting the year in Australia sets you up in the best possible way for a strong season and I’m excited,” said Murray.

The one reason Murray should be confident about his chances of enjoying an injury-free 2018 is the resurgence of veteran Roger Federer after his knee problems in 2016. Outside of the French Open, Federer remains the top tennis player on the planet, even at the age of 36. With 19 Grand Slam titles to his name, three ahead of rival Rafael Nadal, Federer will also have the motivation to maintain and extend his grip as the sport’s most decorated star.

By jamieglencross

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