THERE are no easy answers right now for Andy Murray. The Scot had achieved his life’s ambition and been crowned Wimbledon champion for approximately two months back in September 2013 when the world learned via a short statement that he was to undergo back surgery and would be targeting a return for the following season. 

A few days later he posted a post-operative picture on social media with both thumbs up from his hospital bed – his first words upon coming round where apparently ‘did I win?’ – and the chance of seeing something similar popping up on his facebook, Twitter or Instagram account in the next few days shouldn’t entirely be discounted after an emotional 11th hour withdrawal from the US Open on Saturday night which again leaves him at a career crossroads. 

Put in its bluntest terms, the six solid weeks of rest and rehab which the 30-year-old has undertaken since succumbing to that troublesome hip injury in his Wimbledon quarter final against Sam Querrey have been 
insufficient to cure the problem. 

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The issue actually pre-dates that, flaring up first on the clay courts of Paris, but for all the positive noises coming out of the Murray camp during August, it became clear after a week of practice on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows that the pain he was still experiencing would ultimately prove prohibitive to his chances of victory.

His emotional decision to withdraw from the tournament was hardly taken lightly, apparently decided upon just 20 minutes prior to his press conference, shortly after he had limped in after a practice session with Lucas Pouille of France. 

“I have never had to take any time off because of my hip before, so we were hoping that by taking a few weeks off and resting and rehabbing and really reducing the load that I was putting through it, that I would be okay by the time the US Open came around, but unfortunately that’s not been the case,” the Scot said.

“I spoke to a number of specialists about it to get the best advice possible. Obviously when you speak to a lot, there are different views and opinions on what the best thing to do is moving forward, and that’s a decision I’ll need to take now. I’ll sit down and decide with my team in the next couple of days, for sure.”

While the Scot is rightly reluctant to divulge too many of his most intimate medical details, if it wasn’t before, going under the knife again – his second operation in four years – is certainly on the table now. But there are no easy answers – a full-on hip replacement is generally regarded as the kind of invasive procedure which could end an elite sporting career, and even the more minor option of keyhole surgery which should alleviate certain symptoms but fail to prevent others would mean a lengthy absence from competitive play.

Clearing his diary for the remainder of the year but declining surgery – the likes of Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic won’t play again during 2017 – is another option, but there are no guarantees that the problem wouldn’t simply flare up again when he resumes. 

As the example of 2013 shows, this late portion of the season would generally be regarded as convenient a time as any to take a break from the sport for one reason or another. You could skip the hassle of the Asian swing before starting the build-up for Australia in January. But even this assumption is complicated by a number of extra factors circa 2017. 

Firstly, tickets have already been sold for the second, sell-out Andy Murray Live exhibition event at the SSE Hydro in early November, with Roger Federer having already accepted the invite to participate. This event raised in excess of £300,000 for Unicef and local Glasgow charity Young People’s Futures last time around, and all parties will be desperate to see that event to go ahead as scheduled.

Then, though they may seem like small beer compared to the simple imperative to get fit, healthy and enjoying his tennis again, ranking points could even come into the equation. Not only is Murray still paying the price for the superhuman run of tournament wins in late 2016 which culminated in the ATP World Tour Finals victory which consolidated his No.1 spot, he now has so many points to defend that taking an extended break could see his standing in the game plummet. While the Scot said he hoped to return this year, no guarantees were given.

Big decisions, then, but those who write off Murray do so at their own peril. Look no further than Federer, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee last February, then decided another six months rest and rehab was required after his exit from Wimbledon last summer. He now has two of this season’s majors in his bag with designs this fortnight on a third. 

Whatever option he finally goes for, one thing does seem clear. Short term thinking allowed him to limp into two of the last three Grand Slams, but the time has come for Andy Murray to start playing the long game again.