Andy Murray is set to make his competitive return tomorrow in the doubles at Queen’s, and in a BBC Sport column, the 32-year-old Scot talked today about meeting the woman who performed his “life-changing” hip surgery and how operating on the Queen Mother and Prince Phillip didn’t necessarily mean she was right for him.
“Five months ago, sitting in a news conference at the Australian Open, I thought I was seemingly on the verge of retiring from the sport that I love,” he wrote.
“It was uncomfortable playing with my children at the soft play centre. I couldn’t sleep properly. I couldn’t do basic everyday tasks like putting on my shoes and socks. I was in pain all the time.
“Now I’m getting ready to step back on to the court competitively in the doubles at Queen’s.”
Murray said he didn’t expect to be in this position, I didn’t know how it would feel if I had the hip resurfacing operation.
“Even if I’d never tried to play tennis again, I would have had the operation because I couldn’t walk properly,” he admitted.
Then a pivotal moment in his return was the meeting with Sarah Muirhead-Allwood, the surgeon at the London Hip Unit.
“I knew she had operated on Prince Phillip’s hip last year, and before that the Queen Mother – but I didn’t know how that would translate to working on an athlete,” he said.
“I first met Sarah in late January, shortly after I got back to London from Melbourne, and we chatted for about an hour. During this I asked her: ‘How do I know you’re good?” I wasn’t doing it to be rude, but in sport you can tell how good someone is by their ranking. But how do I know a surgeon is good?’
“She just said to me: Well, you don’t. You don’t know.”
Murray he admired that honesty and “that was why I had surgery with her”.
Murray also said the reason for having the operation was not to come back and play tennis.
“The reason was to improve my quality of life and the operation has been life-changing,” he said.
“I don’t believe in fate – but some odd things happened.”
“I went to have a scan after our meeting and the guy who operated on my back in 2013 messaged me out of the blue, asking how I was getting on with my hip.
“I told him I was actually having a scan at the Lister Hospital in Chelsea – and it turned out he was in the room next door seeing patients.
“So he came to see me and we chatted about Sarah. He said she had a fantastic reputation and that she was very good.”
Murray said he went home and chatted it through with his wife Kim and a few days later had the operation.
Murray recently liked an Instagram post which highlighted the mental struggles for people suffering from chronic pain.
“I’m doing all the things I used to really enjoy doing and which I wouldn’t have been doing six months ago,” he wrote.
“Added to that, I’m back on the court and enjoying playing and all the physical training.”
Murray has entered the doubles at Queen’s Club with Feliciano Lopez in what will be his first taste of action since undergoing the surgery in January.
The Fever-Tree Championships represents the first steps towards resurrecting a career which Murray feared was over at the beginning of the year.
Such was the pain Murray said he considered quitting the sport.
The 32-year-old Scot is now more relaxed about his prospects of returning to the game.
“There were a number of times over the last 18 months where I did want to stop, I didn’t want to play any more, I was getting no enjoyment out of tennis at all,” he said.
“Now, I like playing tennis. I’m a fan of the sport, I played it as a kid and I want to keep playing if I can.”
“I didn’t know how I was going to feel if I went and had the operation but it’s been brilliant, completely life-changing for me from where I was.
“Yes it would be nice to be winning Wimbledon and things like that, but hardly anyone gets the opportunity to do that, and there are loads of players who still love and enjoy the sport without winning the biggest competitions.
“I would hope that I would be able to deal with that and enjoy it.”
Murray and Lopez will face Colombian top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah when the tournament gets under way.
“I don’t know how I’m going to feel when I get back on the court, but I feel lucky, I feel relaxed, I didn’t expect to be in this position,” added Murray.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there but I don’t know what to expect. I’m not putting any expectations on myself because just being out on a tennis court again, and being comfortable and pain free, is enough.
“I’ll enjoy competing. I enjoyed practising, hitting tennis balls, doing all the things I couldn’t do even a few months ago, so we’ll see what happens.”