All eyes on Andy Murray

Wimbledon champion returns to action today in Abu Dhabi after lower back injury



By Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Fri 27 Dec 2013, 12:50 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:54 PM

When you think of a sportsman who had to battle every single day of his life to live up to the incredibly big public expectations, the name of a short man comes to mind. Sachin Tendulkar breathed pressure, embraced it with unbelievable poise and thrived in it.

We do not yet know if Andy Murray has ever met the iconic cricketer, but it seems the Scot, apart from possessing a wonderful talent to play tennis with ruthless precision from the baseline, has also been blessed with Tendulkaresque single-mindedness. If it wasn’t for that enviable quality, the Great British Grand Slam drought would have still continued, heart-melting pictures of tears rolling down the cheeks would still have been captured by those gifted Press photographers at the Henman Hill and in the Royal Box of the Wimbledon Centre Court.

Murray has now taken his rightful place in the pantheon of tennis greats. But this Thursday the man from Dunblane faces his newest challenge when the Mubadala World Tennis Championship gets under way in Abu Dhabi.

No, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Abu Dhabi will not be his greatest obstacles in Abu Dhabi. Nor will it be a feisty Frenchman whose face bears an uncanny resemblance to the Muhammed Ali’s.

Yes, Jo-Wilfreid Tsonga will be his first opponent in Abu Dhabi in the tournament, but Murray’s biggest enemy will be his own fears. The fear of failing to regain the Grand Slam winning form has been haunting him ever since he underwent surgery to fix his lower back problem. So much so that he revealed to Sky Sports recently after winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award that doubts had begun to creep into his mind. “I want to try and win as much as I can. But I also know how hard it is to win those (Grand Slam) tournaments.

“It may never happen again, I might not win another one but I just want to give myself the best chance to do that and that’s why we do the work over here and train and prepare as best as we can,” Murray said. The Briton has now fully recovered from the lower back injury. Though he practised hard in the pre-season in Miami, it will be Abu Dhabi that will reflect the true state of Murray’s current physical condition.

His UAE fans would get to know if he is match-fit weeks before the start of the Australian Open. The organsiers of Mubadala tennis has made sure that all the six players — Murray, Nadal, Djokovic, Tsonga, David Ferrer and Stanislas Wawrinka — get to play at least one more match even if they lose the first one.

That gives players like Murray and Tsonga, who is also making a return after a knee injury, the chance to test their fitness ahead of the first Grand Slam of the New Year.

Nadal and Djokovic, who has just spiced up the new season by hiring Boris Becker as his coach, were given the right to play in Friday’s semis. Murray and Tsonga on Thursday will fight it out to play Djokovic in Friday’s second semi-final and Wawrinka and Ferrer will vie for a place on Friday’s first semi-final against the red-hot Nadal. The Spaniard with the penchant to humiliate his epitaph writers is the one Murray should seek inspiration from.

The man from Mallorca knows a thing or two about making epic comebacks from serious injury issues. Murray has already proved that he can live with the pressure by overcoming the pain of losing the first four Slam finals in his life to end his country’s historic wait for Grand Slams. Now can he overcome the new challenge in his career? We will get our first answers in Abu Dhabi.

rituraj@khaleejtimes.com


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