Andy Murray’s career will be shorter if he continues to play singles

Before the start of the Australian Open in January, Andy Murray was a broken man. Breaking down in his pre-tournament press conference and admitting that retirement was a real possibility was a major low for British tennis fans.

However, he has since made an extraordinary comeback in doubles and now in singles. The bad news for his fans is that his singles career could shorten his career considerably in comparison to if he had chosen to play doubles exclusively.

Clearly, doubles is a lot less physically demanding than the singles game. The majority of Grand Slams play best of three sets in doubles and no-ad scoring is used on the ATP Tour so matches are a lot shorter. Therefore, the stress on Murray’s hip would be a lot less as there is a lot less movement involved.

During his initial recovery period, Murray sought advice from American doubles specialist Bob Bryan who had the same operation as Murray, a metal cup fitted to his hip. Bryan has made a full recovery and is now back on the tour and winning titles with his twin brother Mike.

In an interview with the New York Times, Bryan said “I think a three-out-of-five-set singles match is almost close to 50 times more physical than doubles. It’s going to really challenge Andy, the movement. But I can jump. I can lunge, and I am not sore after matches.”

Therefore, it would seem benificial to the longevity of Murray’s career if he focussed exclusively on doubles, especially if he wants to compete at the Olympics next year.

Of course, it depends what he wants to get out of the rest of his career. Does he believe he can challenge for Grand Slams again? If he does then his comeback is pointless. However, if it is just for the pure enjoyment of playing tennis, it’s his decision.

During Wimbledon, Murray competed in both men’s and mixed doubles and it was looking very unlikely that he would play singles again. He looked like he didn’t want to. Therefore, his sudden decision to play singles again came at a surprise.

After making his singles comeback with two losses, he decided to completely skip the US Open in order to play in a low ranking challenger event. He got his first two wins there before losing to unheralded Italian Matteo Viola. His most impressive win came in Beijing where he beat world number 13 Matteo Berrettini.

The problem with Murray is that his singles style of play is extremely physical. He has shown glimpses of this during his comeback by returning amazing shots and always making his opponent play an extra ball. During his prime, it would not be difficult to call Murray one of the best returners of all time, along with Novak Djokovic.

This style of play is perhaps what caused Murray his injury in the first place. The amount of running he does during a match is phenominal and difficult to change. Therefore, it’s difficult to see him playing singles for very long if he does continue. The nature of doubles is a lot less physical as in theory, each player has half the court.

It’s common to see doubles players continue well in to there forties with Bryan still competing at the highest level aged 41 with Tokyo 2020 in sight.

Murray has looked good when playing doubles this year. His first tournament back was at Queens in June where he partnered Feliciano Lopez. They won the title that week which was an amazing result. Since then Murray has played with a variety of partners, including his older brother Jamie.

Murray’s desire to go back to singles may be inspired by the continued success of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Federer, six years Murray’s senior, has continued to play in a way not many thought was possible. He hasn’t had an injury as serious as Murray’s, but it’s still remarkable. Nadal has had many injuries during his career but continues to dominate clay courts. However, no player has ever made a comeback in singles after the surgery Murray had.

Murray may already have an endpoint in mind. It would make sense for him to target the singles at the Olympics next year as double defending champion. However, if he goes with doubles, he could play for many more years to come.

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