British tennis legend Tim Henman is crossing his fingers that Andy Murray will be able to challenge for the Grand Slams again next year as he continues his comeback from hip surgery.
The two-time Wimbledon champion earned his first singles victory at tour level since January with a three-set win over Tennys Sandgren in the first round of the Zhuhai Championships in China.
It was the step on the long road of recovery for Murray, who underwent a major resurfacing operation on his hip earlier this year after the problem almost forced him to retire.
The former world number one began his comeback in doubles tournaments, winning Queen’s alongside Feliciano Lopez, before starting the play Challenger Tour singles events in August.
And having claimed his first ATP Tour triumph since the Brisbane International on New Year’s Day, Henman revealed his admiration for the way Murray has gradually eased himself back.
“He started back on the practice court doing a lot of static stuff, then he was ready to get on the doubles court and played amazing at Queens to win with Feliciano Lopez,” said Henman, speaking as part of Jaguar's official vehicle partnership with Wimbledon, which saw the Jaguar ambassadors lead a tennis masterclass for a group of Ace Pace competition winners.
“He built it up again at Wimbledon and with some singles matches in America in the hard court season and he is now looking to play in Asia and Europe to finish off the year.
“Hopefully he’ll continue to see that progression – there’s no doubt that his tennis game is always going to be there, so it’s much more about his fitness, strength, endurance and speed.
“If he can continue to improve that then fingers crossed he can be challenging for major titles in 2020. We certainly hope he can get back up to the level of the top three players.”
Such was the extent of Murray’s pain earlier this year, the former British No.1 admitted he first round defeat in the Australian Open could have been his final ever match.
His post-match interview included a video montage of his contemporaries paying tribute to him in what seemed like a farewell – but Henman said it is always foolish to write-off Murray.
“At the Australian Open it was other players and tennis officials who were having a farewell for him, but it wasn’t actually him saying ‘this is a done deal’,” said Henman.
“Then obviously going through the procedure to have the big, major knee operation – hopefully it has given him a second chance, but only time will tell.
“When you reflect to Wimbledon 2017 when he was really struggling with his hip, he got through to the quarter-finals against Sam Querrey on basically one leg.
“He hasn’t really played properly for almost two and a half or three years. If you think of that in the context of his age, he probably hasn’t played properly since he was 29 or 30.
“Only time will tell what happens from here. But perhaps this will give him a little bit of an opportunity of extending his career, if he’s fit and healthy again.”
Henman was speaking at a Jaguar Tennis Masterclass at Wimbledon, where he provided a coaching session to 24 lucky competition winners alongside Milos Raonic and Katie Boulter.
With Wimbledon head coach Dan Bloxham overseeing proceedings, the training session provided a chance for the Jaguar Ambassadors to engage with their fans and deliver 1-2-1 tennis tips.
And at the scene of one of Murray’s greatest achievements – his first Olympic gold at London 2012 – Henman expects the prospect of more success at Tokyo 2020 will be high on his list of goals.
“The Olympics is another great thing – obviously he’s won double Olympic gold in London and Rio, but he’d like to go for the hat-trick next time round in Tokyo,” he said.
“It’s another great opportunity and something to work towards, but in the short-term fingers crossed he can be competing 100 per cent fit and healthy.”
The Jaguar I-PACE recently won the treble at 2019 World Car Awards including World Car of the Year, World Car Design of the Year and World Green Car awards. For more information about Jaguar’s partnership with Wimbledon visit https://www.jaguar.co.uk/partnerships/wimbledon.html