It’s been almost one year to the day that Andy Murray gave a fateful press conference announcing he was backing out of the 2017 U.S. Open. But now, Murray is returning with renewed strength — he’s playing in this year’s Open, and working on projects outside of tennis.
“It’s been a pretty rocky road, because there have been so many ups and downs — a lot of downs, not many ups — and false hopes at times, when I think things are getting better, and they don’t,” Murray says of his journey to recovery. “But hopefully I’m going in the right direction.”
To rehabilitate the hip injury that has benched him for the past year, the tennis player spends a significant amount of time in the pool. He never did physical therapy in water in the past, but those were different times. He was younger, he says, and more impatient; when he suffered previous injuries, he thought resting for four weeks meant being out of the game for a lifetime. But this year, he has learned lessons in patience — and the benefits of aquatics. He doesn’t swim lanes in the traditional sense. Instead, he runs and jogs underwater, and specialists drag floats through the pool so he can mimic the movements he makes playing tennis without the impact of being on the court.
During his downtime, he’s sought out fresh philanthropy and business initiatives with which to get involved. The two-time Wimbledon Champion chose environmental awareness as his cause to pursue. Murray is known to be a charitable guy — he works with UNICEF, speaks openly about women’s rights in sports and recently sent a letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May urging her to put a U.K. ban on animal-fur imports into place. As a result of this reputation, he was named the ambassador for Jaguar’s new I-Pace vehicle — the company’s first all-electric performance car — which he drives at home in Oxshott, England. The ambassadorship came about, in part, with a pledge he made during the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour in June to go electric.
“We have a job as human beings to try and protect the planet we’re living on,” Murray says from inside a quiet hotel room in midtown New York. “It’s pretty incredible that we’re here in the first place.”
With such a diverse and packed schedule, the winner of three grand slam titles is understandably exhausted. He’s just returned from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, where he will play in the U.S. Open, beginning on Aug. 27. Earlier, he was practicing and having a few photos taken at the courts before he came back to the hotel — where he met his two daughters and wife, Kim Sears Murray. They’d deplaned a flight from the U.K., and it was the first time Murray saw his nine-month-old baby and two-and-a-half-year-old Sophie in four weeks. At the moment, he seems anxious to get back to them, lacing and unlacing his fingers compulsively, clearing his throat and rubbing his forehead while he answers questions. But there’s no doubt that Murray is focused on what lies ahead.
“I learned a lot about patience,” he says of the past year. “I think athletes are generally pretty impatient. When you get an injury, you want to be back playing straight away. With this, as it’s gone along, I’ve gained more patience and started to look at the bigger picture, rather than just the next tournament.”
His average day of practice back in the day consisted of three or four high-intensity hours, but now, he limits it to an hour-and-a-half in efforts to preserve his overall health.
“I’m doing things that are better for my well-being, because without that, I’m not able to play,” he says. “This experience of rehabilitation has made me look after myself a bit better than I did when I was younger. Before, I’d often just do what I was told by my team, or coaches.
“I’m a lot more involved in decision-making, and what it is that I’m doing with my training.”
With that, he says goodbye and prepares for two more interviews. Afterward, he’ll finally get to chill out with his family and rest until the next round of practice, rehab, work — and whatever else comes his way.
More From the Eye: