Nadal Leads Top 10 In Surprising Serving Statistic
Infosys ATP Insights also shows why Del Potro stands out in the same category
You are a righty about to hit a first serve against a lefty in the Deuce court. The serve should go out wide, right? Surely sliding the first serve out to the left-hander’s backhand return will deliver the highest win percentage…
No. It. Doesn’t.
An Infosys ATP Insights deep dive into the current serving patterns of the Top 10 players in the ATP Rankings against left-handed opponents in the Deuce court from 2011-2018 at ATP Tour Masters 1000 events and the Nitto ATP Finals identifies more first serves do go wide to the lefty’s backhand return, but a higher percentage are won serving right down the middle to the forehand.
Current Top 10: Location Of First Serves To The Deuce Court • Wide to left-hander’s backhand = 74.2% won • T to the left-hander’s forehand = 75.6% won • Advantage = 1.4 percentage points.
What’s fascinating is that eight of the world’s Top 10 serve wide to the backhand more often with their first serve in the Deuce court, but six of those 10 players win more with their first down the T to the forehand.
2018 Top 10: Serve Direction In Deuce Ct vs. Lefties (2011-2018 Masters 1000s & Nitto ATP Finals)
T (to the forehand)
Wide (to the backhand)
Serve Down T vs. Out Wide
Juan Martin del Potro
Rafael Nadal, the only left-hander in the Top 10, directed by far the most serves down the T in the Deuce court to his left-handed opponents’ forehand than out wide to the backhand. Does the 17-time Grand Slam champion know something about playing lefties that the rest of the Top 10 do not, or is it simply a result of his natural lefty slice serve motion across his body which ends up down the T? Nadal hit 37 more first serves down the T than out wide, with Kevin Anderson the only other Top 10 player registering more first serves down the T – hitting 63 down the T and 60 out wide.
Roger Federer went with the traditional pattern of a wide slider to the backhand return the most, hitting 79 more first serves out wide than down the T (233 wide/154 T).
Win Percentage: T vs. Wide (2011-2018 Masters 1000s & Nitto ATP Finals)
T (to the forehand)
Wide (to the backhand)
% Point Difference T vs Wide
Juan Martin del Potro
AVERAGE WIN %
The table above identifies that six of the top 10 had a higher win percentage serving to the left-hander’s forehand down the T than out wide to the backhand. Juan Martin del Potro led the Top 10 in a T versus wide comparison, winning 18 percentage points more (83.0% to 65.0%) down the T than out wide. The other players that won more down the T than out wide were Marin Cilic (+9.2), Dominic Thiem (+2.9), Anderson (+2.4), Federer (+1.5) and Nadal (+1.2).
There are two key factors that are driving these metrics: • Serving down the T consistently elicits faster serves, delivering a higher likelihood of an ace or an unreturned serve. • The element of surprise. Lefties will typically be sitting on a wide first serve.
The analysis certainly suggests that first serves can more than hold their own against a comparatively stronger forehand return. The secret sauce is undoubtedly in the mix.
Canadian looks to back up strong sophomore season in 2019
Denis Shapovalov is just 19 years old. Sometimes that’s easy to forget given everything he has accomplished.
The Canadian made his first big splash not long after his 18th birthday, beating Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal en route to the Coupe Rogers semi-finals, becoming the youngest player to reach an ATP Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final or semi-final since the series began in 1990.
“My whole life has changed in the past five days,” Shapovalov said at the time.
The teenager went from sleeping in a room at friend Felix Auger-Aliassime’s house with a poster of Rafael Nadal on the wall to being a household name himself. After becoming the youngest player to reach the fourth round of the US Open just weeks later, Shapovalov was a budding rockstar on the ATP Tour.
Shapovalov had plenty of eyes on him throughout 2018. And he did not disappoint, winning nearly triple the number of tour-level matches (35-28) as he did last year and reaching three ATP Tour semi-finals. The highlight of the year perhaps came in May.
When the Canadian arrived at the Mutua Madrid Open, he did not own a tour-level victory on clay. Yet Shapovalov broke Nadal’s record for youngest quarter-finalist and semi-finalist at the event by advancing to the last four, doing so for the second time at a Masters 1000 tournament. Any time you break one of Nadal’s clay-court records, that’s a special achievement.
“Some people would mention that I had a really unsuccessful year, and I’m just sitting thinking, ‘I’m 27 in the world, what are you guys talking about? I was 50 last year’,” Shapovalov said. “There are always people that are saying, ‘You should be winning titles. You should be doing this and that.’ I try to tell them listen guys I’m only 19 and everyone’s going at their own speed. Everyone goes at their own pace. It never got me down. I’ve always stayed motivated, positive and so has my team.
“In 2018, I think my results were really good, actually. I didn’t have anything unbelievable. I didn’t win any titles. But overall, I really progressed,” Shapovalov said. “Finishing [the year] 27th in the world was really a big step forward for me, and I hope that next year I can just keep going forward.”
Shapovalov began 2017 at No. 250 in the ATP Rankings. This year, he started at No. 51. And heading into 2019 as the World No. 27, he has certainly shown steady improvement. So people will be watching to see just how high he can climb.
“It’s a challenge for somebody so young to come out and burst onto the scene and all of a sudden have so many expectations. It’s inevitable,” said Shapovalov’s coach, Rob Steckley. “I think people can get lost in the expectations. So I think that’s the challenging part for an athlete and the team as well, to make sure that you don’t get sucked in. I think that he’s done a great job at being able to back his [freshman] year up with some incredible results and really proving to himself that he belongs there. I think that’s a big challenge for somebody his age.”
The best players in the world are also very aware that Shapovalov is coming, and quickly. Reigning Wimbledon finalist and Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Kevin Anderson needed five grueling sets that lasted three hours and 43 minutes to sneak by the Canadian at the US Open.
“He definitely didn’t make it very easy for me out there. I think so far in his pretty young career he has played great tennis, especially in the big stadiums in front of thousands of people,” Anderson said. That bodes very well for him moving forward. He’s a really exciting player. Obviously he’s going to continue to mature and get more experience. You’re definitely going to be seeing a lot of him in the future.”
It’s easy to forget that Shapovalov is the youngest player in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. But what might be most impressive is that, despite being World No. 27 at 19 years old, he is nowhere near content. That’s why the left-hander spent three weeks at the IMG Academy in Florida training this off-season. Some days began as early as 6:00 am, and did not end until more than 12 hours later.
“I definitely don’t get excited for fitness. It’s not something I always look forward to, especially after four hours of court time. But that’s why you have a team to push you,” Shapovalov said.
At the end of the day, no matter how tough training gets, or the expectations Shapovalov faces, there’s a reason he is putting in all of the work.
“I just want to be the best,” Shapovalov said. “When I get tired, I just think, ‘I want to be lifting trophies next year’.”
Murray & Wawrinka Lead Stars Seeking Return To Form In 2019
Former Top 5 players returning to full schedule in 2019
In 2018, two players who would eventually qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals spent the early part of the season struggling to recover from injuries. Novak Djokovic overcame a right elbow procedure and a 6-6 start to climb from No. 22 to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. Kei Nishikori, who began the year on the ATP Challenger Tour as he returned from a wrist injury, also earned his spot at the season finale in London.
Will we see more impressive comebacks in 2019? Four former Top 5 stars who missed chunks of time in 2018 could make a major impact next year.
Andy Murray The former World No. 1 underwent hip surgery this January, falling as low as No. 839 in the ATP Rankings in July. Murray returned in June at the Fever-Tree Championships, competing in six events before ending his season after the Shenzhen Open to fully recover for 2019.
But despite Murray understandably not roaring to the top of the sport from his first tournament back, he gave fans around the world plenty of reason for optimism heading into 2019. The former World No. 1 was perhaps most impressive at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. In just his third tournament back from surgery — and his first on hard courts — Murray won three matches to reach the quarter-finals. But it’s not the fact that at World No. 832 he made the last eight, it’s how he did it.
Murray won three three-setters, including an impressive victory against British No. 1 Kyle Edmund. The Scot showed that his will to win is as strong as ever in the Round of 16 against Marius Copil, surviving a third-set tie-break that ended at 3:02 am before bursting into tears, showing his investment into the moment.
In his final event of 2018 in Shenzhen, Murray defeated 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up and 2017 Shenzhen champion David Goffin before ultimately losing to Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco. Murray showed that his level is still there, but it may just take matches to round into top form. So look for him to steadily improve in 2019, with perhaps one big result giving Murray all the momentum he needs.
Stan Wawrinka The Swiss No. 2 underwent two surgeries to treat a knee cartilage injury in August 2017. But already back to No. 66 in the ATP Rankings after falling as low as No. 263 this June, Wawrinka has shown that he is well on his way to returning to his very best.
The former World No. 3 beat 2017 Nitto ATP Finals titlist Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at both Wimbledon and the US Open, winning six of the seven sets they played this year. Those were particularly strong wins as the Bulgarian had come out victorious in their previous four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.
Wawrinka improved towards the end of the season. Not only did he push then-World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in a tight two-setter at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, but he extended Roger Federer in the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, battling through a second-set tie-break to force a decider before succumbing in the all-Swiss affair.
Throughout 2018, Wawrinka has remained optimistic, saying repeatedly that he believes that eventually he will find his best tennis. And with the momentum of his first semi-final in seven months at the St. Petersburg Open in September, Wawrinka looks set to come out firing in 2019.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Tsonga was forced to miss more than seven months of the 2018 season due to a knee injury. And while the Frenchman won just one of his six matches after returning in September, he showed that his game is not far off.
The former World No. 5 might have struggled to get over the hump in his return when it comes to winning matches, but five of his six clashes went to a deciding set, with all of his opponents in those meetings sitting inside the Top 65 of the ATP Rankings. The 16-time tour-level champion was competing well against some of the best players in the sport.
Tsonga has long been one of the most athletic players on the ATP Tour, and his all-around firepower will keep him in many matches early in 2019. And once he adds more wins under his belt, his confidence will continue to build.
Tsonga also has consistency on his side. While 2018 will be seen as a hiccup, the 33-year-old has proven his ability to maintain his standing towards the top of the sport, finishing inside the Top 20 of the year-end ATP Rankings in 10 consecutive seasons (2008-17). It’s safe to say that Tsonga will not be World No. 256 for long.
Tomas Berdych Berdych did not compete after the Fever-Tree Championships in June due to a back injury. And while the Czech — who had finished 12 consecutive seasons (2006-17) inside the Top 20 of the year-end ATP Rankings — will be disappointed to have fallen as low as World No. 77, there’s no reason to believe the former World No. 4 will not be able to bounce back.
Berdych began 2018 on a high note, reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, losing to eventual champion Federer. But in that event, Berdych defeated Juan Martin del Potro and Fabio Fognini, two of the season’s biggest standouts. Del Potro won his maiden ATP Tour Masters 1000 title less than two months later in Indian Wells, and Fognini would capture three titles.
Berdych is scheduled to return to action in Doha, where he reached the final in 2015 and the semi-finals in 2016-17. The Czech star is also entered in the Australian Open.
ATPTour.com speaks to Nadal’s coach ahead of the 2019 season
Rafael Nadal is nearly set to kick off his 2019 ATP Tour campaign at the Brisbane International in Australia. Carlos Moya, who will be coaching Nadal for the third straight season, will be keeping a close eye on how the World No. 2 performs in his first match since the semi-finals at the 2018 US Open (l. to Del Potro). Coach Moya is also eager to ensure Nadal avoids aggravating any of the injuries he suffered in 2018, including one that required arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle.
Moya spoke with ATPTour.com to describe the hurdles Nadal encountered in 2018, divulge the steps being taken to dodge those obstacles (preventable ones and otherwise) in the upcoming season, and why Nadal will be more aggressive than ever upon his return.
Rafa is coming off a very difficult past six months. It’s not the most glamourous part of my job, but it is a requirement and a responsibility I have, to be in his corner through times like these. We’re always in preparation mode, whether it’s for a match or during recovery time. Matters don’t stand still just because Rafa is on the sidelines; we had to plot out his rehab and eventual return.
Obviously times were difficult for us when Rafa was out of action and things were uncertain. The hardest part of it was having to watch Rafa retire from that Grand Slam semi-final match in New York. We knew then that it was unlikely Rafa would compete in Asia. However, the goal was to play Paris (the Rolex Paris Masters) and London (the Nitto ATP Finals).
Things didn’t work out as planned; Rafa sustained a small abdominal injury, and his ankle wasn’t where we wanted it to be. Once we decided to skip Paris, we decided it was best to change directions and, seeing that he wouldn’t be at full strength in time for London, we choose to undergo the foot operation at that time.
All things considered, how would you rate 2018? When he was on court and competing, Rafa was spectacular. Of the nine tournaments he played, he won five. He lost a total of four matches, and two were matches in which he was forced to retire (Australian Open, US Open). That forces us to look for solutions. What could we have done better? Is there an answer, a solution, to things we didn’t get right in 2018?
What type of answer or solution are you talking about? Mixing things up, changing things. Training systems, for example. The frequency of workouts, the methods, the intensity. We have to find a balance to guarantee results without putting Rafa in the situation he was in during the second half of 2018.
How is that applied on a day-to-day basis? As a team, we’re all thinking the same thing. At this point in Rafa’s career, there isn’t much overhauling we can do in an hour or a day. That would be more harmful than beneficial. That’s something we can all agree on.
Does that mean training won’t be as brutal or as punishing? Well, since I joined Rafa’s team, training sessions haven’t lasted longer than two hours. That’s more than enough time in practice, considering the level of intensity Rafa puts into training. We give his well-being the highest priority and take all precautions necessary to avoid injury. Going three-and-a-half hours would be overkill and wouldn’t make for more quality training.
I’m in favour of the shorter workout sessions. As an example, we’ve reduced the double workout sessions in a day; we reserve that for tournaments and that’s because the goal then is to work around the scheduled morning/evening sessions and get work in when it’s available.
Nadal turns 33 years old this season. Is the wear and tear on his body a reason for concern among your team, considering his age? We understand that injuries play a factor in a player’s longevity. In fact, 99 per cent of players retire because of injuries and also what that entails, like losing confidence and a drop in desire. Spending more time at the doctor’s office than on the tennis court and falling in the ATP Rankings, those things take all sorts of tolls on a player.
I’ve been through that and I know what it does to a player’s spirit. You have to try to avoid it, or at least prolong things as long as possible. That’s where we are concentrating our energy. We ensure Rafa spends just the right amount of time in training and [performing] in events has a high priority. We are focused to ensure Rafa doesn’t over-exert himself.
Do you plan on reducing his playing schedule? There’s always talk about that and it’s always something we take into consideration. He played nine tournaments in 2018. I wonder if any other player has finished the year as World No. 2 after participating in just nine tournaments? Of course, we wish he could have competed in more, but due to the circumstances, that’s the most we could handle. If he’s at full strength, Rafa can endure 14, maybe 15 tournaments in a calendar year, but no more. Fitting more into his schedule doesn’t seem realistic.
The preseason is just about over. You’re going into the new season with some unknowns and a lot of time on the sidelines. The goal has been to take things one step at a time, especially following the foot surgery. In principle it was simple surgery, but we still don’t want to rush into anything. So far, we’re exactly where we want to be. Recovery is right on track. Nothing has been over the top, and I’m optimistic as Rafa heads to Australia.
You said before that things were spectacular when Rafa was on court and competing in 2018. What have you sought to improve before the start of 2019? We’re working on his shape, his conditioning and on specific on-court tactics. Joan Forcades (Nadal’s physical trainer), Francisco Roig and I are preparing Rafa to be a more aggressive player — even moreso than he has been throughout his career. Matches are settled within four strokes and 70 per cent of that is the serve and how one returns, then what follows, plus the next shot.
It’s not the style of play Rafa prefers, but we’re working to find a way to make that sort of matchplay fit into his comfort zone. Rafa likes to find the rhythm, although he has shown that he can play just as well when there is no such rhythm to be found. I am very much instrumental when it comes to moulding Rafa in being more aggressive. Sometimes he gets it, other times he doesn’t.
I know we’ll never turn Rafa into a (Roger) Federer, (Milos) Raonic or (Tomas) Berdych, who all excel as two-shot players, but we have to try and push Rafa to come close to that, without losing the essence of his game. That’s why, in practice, we try new things and to instill confidence so that he can implement those techniques during matches.
Aggression seems to be the ultimate goal. He accomplished (being more aggressive) in 2017 and was also very aggressive in 2018. The last three matches Rafa played at the US Open — his last three of the season — didn’t show the type of attacking game we were trying to achieve. When he was 20 years old, perhaps he could get away with being less assertive. But at this point, Rafa has to force the issue a little more and be the one dictating matters.
Being a former player myself, I understand where he’s coming from at times, and I get why sometimes he feels more comfortable pulling back rather than pushing forward. When you lack confidence, it’s difficult to be aggressive. Sometimes Rafa feels that isn’t the best form of attack, but one thing we’re trying to get him to understand is that he needs to impose his will whenever possible.
Nadal has played a part in three of the best Grand Slam matches contended in 2018. What are your thoughts on that? Nadal is the undisputed king of epic matches, you can’t argue that. His matches tend to be long, drawn-out and suspenseful. But as his coach, I prefer less drama. The more the theatrics, the longer Rafa is on the court and that makes me uneasy. Ten years ago, I’d support Rafa in dragging things out, but that’s no longer beneficial to his success. The fans love it, though, when Nadal manages to win when seemingly all hope is lost.
How does Nadal manage to do that — to win, when all hope seems lost? He has a knack for doing that. I’m his coach and even I don’t know how he pulls those wins off. I can’t begin to explain it. All I know is that the fans love it, and when the fans are loving it, he’s inspired to play his best and no further explanation is necessary. That’s the essence of Rafa.
Nadal collided with Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon this year and wound up on the wrong end of their dramatic encounter. Do you look back and question what you could, as a team, have done better? Things like that always go through your mind. What if Rafa had defeated Novak? [Kevin] Anderson was coming off a brutal semi-final encounter against John Isner and Rafa would have been favoured to win over Anderson. What would it have all meant? Who knows. Djokovic wouldn’t have won his first Grand Slam since 2016 (Roland Garros). But still, who knows how things would have played out in the long run?
At this point, do you consider yourself a more influential figure on or off the court? It’s hard to say. It’s not easy to analyze myself as his coach… Rafa is better suited to answer that question. All I can say is that I’m doing everything I can. As a coach, you always strive to do the best job possible.
In the past two years, how many times have you been annoyed with Nadal? Practically none. Of course, there are times we agree and other times we don’t see eye to eye. But we always resolve those matters.
Is it hard to get on the same page as Nadal at times? No, because it’s a relationship in which we are always honest and open. If I wasn’t always sincere, my credibility wouldn’t be worth much. I don’t want him to be a robot. I want Rafa to be receptive and understand where I’m coming from when I lend advice but I also want him to provide feedback.
Alexander Zverev was victorious at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. Do you believe this signifies a changing of the guard in 2019? Djokovic, Nadal and Federer still rule the Grand Slams, but you’re seeing new faces capture titles at ATP Tour Masters 1000 events and at the Nitto ATP Finals. There are a lot of strong players on the cusp of making moves.
Were you surprised that Zverev defeated both Federer and Djokovic consecutively in London? I can’t say it surprised me. Defeating both Federer and Djokovic in back-to-back matches is no easy task and I believe [Zverev] is the only player who can do something like that at the moment. We’re talking about a player who hasn’t been competing at the highest level for very long and, for whatever reason, hasn’t been able to find a lot of success at the Grand Slam level just yet. But he’s one who is clearly ready to press forward and contend for titles against the best players in the world.
What are your thoughts on the ATP Cup? The idea makes sense. We should always support new competitions that are meant to modernize and advance our sport. Sometimes we’re reluctant to adapt new formats. The ATP is making this important effort to push forward and I see it as very positive.
With 2018 in the books, what do you want to achieve most in 2019? All I want is for Rafa to be healthy. If he’s at full health, he’ll soar to new heights. Being healthy is the No. 1 priority for our team.
One of the first phone calls Katie Boulter made after breaking into the world’s top 100 was to her grandparents.
The British tennis player’s grandfather Brian is, in her words, “a smart guy” – a mechanical engineer who invented clothing anti-theft tags.
“He actually put airfield lighting down in Gatwick and Heathrow and different places,” Boulter told BBC Sport.
“He’s someone who has pushed me in my lifetime. I love to spend time with him, just talking about completely-irrelevant-to-tennis conversations.”
While the 22-year-old would have liked to have spent Christmas Day with him, she was instead on a plane to Australia gearing up to play two of the biggest names in tennis for the first time – Serena Williams and Roger Federer.
Boulter admits she is a “little anxious” about facing two players who have 43 Grand Slam singles titles between them when she teams up with Cameron Norrie to represent Great Britain at the Hopman Cup in Australia.
Before setting off for Perth, Boulter shared her thoughts on facing her childhood idol, the trip to Wimbledon that motivated her during an illness that kept her out for a year, sibling rivalry and fashion.
‘It’s going to be a huge year’
Boulter and Norrie will play former world number one Federer and his Swiss team-mate Belinda Bencic on 30 December, before facing Americans Williams and Frances Tiafoe four days later in the Hopman Cup mixed team event.
“It is something I’ve dreamed of,” said Boulter, who is the world number 97 after a year in which she climbed more than 100 places in the rankings.
“It’s going to be a huge year for me and I’m looking forward to playing a lot more people like that.
“I’m going to go out and play my game against Serena. I do the same thing no matter who is on the other side of the court.
“There may be a small element that, OK, it is actually Serena when I get on the court, but I’m going to enjoy it and just have fun.”
Facing her childhood idol follows a year of other tennis firsts for Boulter – a first WTA quarter-final, first ITF singles title, first time in the top 100 and first victory at Wimbledon.
Like many young players, Boulter grew up watching Williams after the rivalry between her and Russia’s Maria Sharapova caught her attention.
“I watched them when I was little on TV – the first time Sharapova won Wimbledon [in 2004] and beat Serena was big news,” she said.
“Serena is such an amazing woman. The way she carries herself is something I would like to emulate. She’s someone I’ve looked up to for a long time.”
Boulter does have some big-name experience to draw on against the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion – she beat former US Open champion Sam Stosur to reach the Nottingham quarter-finals in June and she took a set off world number seven Karolina Pliskova in a tight quarter-final in Tianjin in October.
Click to see content: boulter_year_by_year
A year out with illness
This year, a small crowd gathered on court 14 at Wimbledon to watch Boulter claim her first Grand Slam match win. Three years ago, Boulter would have been among them.
A fatigue illness forced her to take a year out of the sport. As a result, her ranking tumbled. A trip to Wimbledon to watch her friends was the tipping point for Boulter.
“I wanted to support them but, at the same time, I wanted to be there. I wanted to be that person,” she said.
“I posted about it when I got home and said to myself, ‘Next year, I’ll be back here playing.’ And I was.
“It drove me a little bit more and gave me motivation. I can look back at it now and it got me to where I am now.”
The post is still on Boulter’s Instagram. Next to a quote urging athletes not to take their sport for granted, Boulter wrote about “the toughest year of my life”.
“Being away has made me become a little bit of a nightmare,” she wrote. “I have learnt just as much off the court as I have being on it, helping me become a stronger person.”
Sibling rivalry was ‘big motivation’
There are plenty of tennis photographs on Boulter’s profile, including one of her having a hit with her then 80-year-old grandad.
Her mum played tennis at county level and represented Great Britain a few times, but it was sibling rivalry that motivated Boulter in the early days.
“When we were younger, beating my big brother was a big motivation for me! I don’t think he realised it at the time,” Boulter said,
“We used to practise together at this local court down the road from our house. It was the only thing I could eventually beat him in, so that felt great.
“It’s my absolute claim to fame, beating my brother when I was 14. I’ll keep that for life! He hasn’t really picked up a racquet much since then…”
Away from tennis, Boulter has an interest in fashion – she has appeared in Vogue magazine this year – and used to play the piano, until tennis got in the way.
“I’m interested in what different things people can come up with, within the fashion world, which is relatable to them, but might not be to someone else,” she said.
“It’s quite a cool way to express yourself. I don’t really focus on imagery but it is a big part of the job. It’s pretty cool to switch your outfit all the time and have everything in place.”
But, for now, the focus is on the Australian Open, which will be Boulter’s first Grand Slam without needing a wildcard, and then the top 50.
Andy Murray says he still “has some pain” in his hip, but is in a “better place” in the build-up to January’s Australian Open than last year.
The Scot had hip surgery in January 2018 but ended his return in September to recover fully for the 2019 campaign.
“I need to play matches and see how it feels,” said the 31 year old, a five-times Australian Open runner-up.
“Last year when I came here it was tough, I was struggling quite a lot but it feels better than then.”
Murray was speaking to reporters before the Brisbane International which begins on Monday and where he will be unseeded.
The former world number one returned to the ATP tour in June following his operation but withdrew from Wimbledon on the eve of the tournament and lost in the second round at the US Open on his return to Grand Slams.
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Murray, whose 2018 season ended with a quarter-final defeat in the Shenzhen Open and has dropped to a world ranking of 256, added: “When I am able to play three, four, five matches in a row I can take it from there.
“I would just like to get through the tournaments and feel like I am able to compete and not be restricted by my hip.”
The Australian Open takes place in Melbourne from 14-27 January.
Former World No. 1 to play first tournament since September
Andy Murray’s resolve to work his way back from hip surgery is ingrained in his desire to ensure that the latter stages of his career are played on his terms. As he prepares to play just his seventh tournament in the past 18 months at next week’s Brisbane International, the Scot says he is determined to not let injury define his remaining seasons.
“I owe it to myself to give myself a chance to get back to the level that I’m happy competing at… I want to go out on my own terms. If I stopped six months ago or not given the hip time to recover, I may look back and regret that decision,” he said Friday.
Murray, 31, was speaking to media in Brisbane after earlier in the day practising with Grigor Dimitrov. This time last year Murray arrived at the season opener hopeful of returning to the tour after a six-month injury layoff. But he withdrew from the event and underwent right hip surgery in early January. By the time he returned to the tour in June at Queen’s, he’d been away from tournament play for 11 months.
Murray had a modest 7-5 win-loss record in 2018, with the best showing of his six tournament appearances being a quarter-final run in Cincinnati. He missed the final five weeks of the 2018 season with an ankle injury and in October and November Murray spent around six weeks working in Philadelphia with sports rehab specialist Bill Knowles.
“As I’ve gotten older, and with the last 12 months, I can’t believe how quickly things can change,” Murray said. “When I first had issues with the hip I was No. 1 in the world and 12 months later I was struggling. I thought I had time on my side. There’s nothing I’d rather do more than stay out on tour. I love the practice, the competition, the locker room. I want to play as long as I can. There are still things I want to achieve. Whether I am capable of doing that or not, we’ll see.”
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At No. 256 in the ATP Rankings, Murray is using his protected ranking of No. 2 to enter Brisbane. But that ranking can’t be used for seedings, meaning Murray could draw any of the top eight seeds – including Rafael Nadal – in the early rounds. But the 31-year-old is focused on finding a way to regain form, win some matches if possible, and start enjoying tennis again.
“I have to be smart with how I train and manage [the hip] as best I can. Last year I was in more pain than I am now. It was a hard year in which I went through a lot, but I had to accept that pain was something I had to deal with. This time I’m trying to enjoy myself. I missed playing here and I’m going to go out and compete as hard as I can.”
Did You Know? Andy Murray has spent 41 weeks as World No. 1 during his career. See the No. 1 weeks leaderboard