Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova have both paid tribute to Andy Murray as the three-time grand slam champion continues his remarkable comeback from a career-threatening hip injury.
At the Australian Open in January, Murray admitted it could be his final tournament after struggling to sufficiently recover from a hip operation he underwent in 2018. As a last throw of the dice, the former world No 1 went under the knife again for a radical hip resurfacing procedure with the primary aim to lead a pain-free life. At that stage, any hopes of prolonging his tennis career were secondary.
However, against all expectations Murray has slowly returned to professional tennis, first in doubles – in June he partnered Feliciano Lopez to win the Queen's Club title in his first tournament – and then in singles, culminating in winning the European Open title at Antwerp, his first championship victory in two-and-a-half years.
Murray's journey was tracked in full detail by a TV camera crew for a documentary called Resurfacing, which was released at the end of last month.
“It was tough to watch, to be honest – as a tennis player and as someone who has known him for a long time – to see what he has been through,” Djokovic, 32, said during the media day for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship 2019 in Abu Dhabi. “It was a great insight into his last couple of years and the struggles he has had, mental, emotional, physical.
“He is an amazing warrior. Not to give up after everything that has happened – after all the recoveries, preparations, trying to heal and play a couple of matches in a whole season, and still after everything he has been through in his career, to not give up is really impressive. It’s really inspiring and obviously I wish him all the very best.”
Sharapova is certainly someone who can relate to Murray's recent struggles. Herself a former world No 1, a persistent shoulder injury over the past two years has prevented her from competing at the highest level. In 2019, Sharapova competed in just 15 matches and with her career now in its latter stages, it has led to the inevitable speculation of retirement, although she maintains she still has the "desire" to continue.
Sharapova beats Tomljanovic at MWTC
"I love seeing what an athlete’s mind is going through. I can very much relate to the feelings they go through and the moments a lot of people don’t see, and having access to an athlete like him … It’s an amazing reflection on what it takes to get to the top,” Sharapova said after she marked her return from a four-month absence with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Ajla Tomljanovic in the women’s match at MWTC on Thursday night.
“When you achieve a lot and people ask – especially when you’re struggling or have injuries – why you keep going, sometimes there is no perfect answer. Sometimes those answers might seem stupid but for some reason we keep going, so I really enjoyed [the documentary] from that perspective.
“[It showed] you don’t always have the right answers to explain why we keep doing it, because it will be easier [to stop] for the body, for the mind. But there is something in us that prevails all those thoughts.”