ANDY MURRAY seems certain to make his grand slam return at the US Open next week, but what happens after that is distinctly less predictable.
It is more than a year since the former world No 1 last played at one of tennis’s big four events, limping through to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.
It’s kind of difficult to predict how you’re going to do and say how far you’re going to go in the event. I just need to be on the court more consistently through until the end of the year.Andy Murray
Since hip surgery in January, Murray has been taking his comeback cautiously and decided against playing at Wimbledon only two weeks after returning to the match court.
But with four tournaments and seven matches – four of them victories – now under his belt, Murray is poised to take the next step.
The 31-year-old said: “My body feels better than it did a few weeks ago, so that’s positive. Just being around these players and practising with them more and more on a more consistent basis is going to help me improve.
“My expectation is to give my best effort in the matches. Hopefully if I do that my tennis will get better.
“It’s kind of difficult to predict how you’re going to do and say how far you’re going to go in the event.
“My tennis is getting better all the time. I just need to be on the court more consistently through until the end of the year.”
Twelve months ago Murray was criticised for pulling out on the eve of the US Open, while he also withdrew the day before the start of Wimbledon this summer, so nothing can be completely certain until he steps out on court on Monday for a first-round clash with Australia’s James Duckworth.
By good fortune, Murray has drawn one of the only players ranked lower than him – 445 to 378 – with Duckworth also entering the tournament on a protected ranking following injury.
Should he win that things are likely to get significantly tougher with 31st seed Fernando Verdasco or Feliciano Lopez up next and third seed Juan Martin del Potro a potential third-round opponent.
Murray has been seen as a potential champion ever since reaching his first slam final in New York in 2008, and tempering expectations does not come easily, even if he is delighted simply to be playing here again.
The 2012 winner said: “The last 10 or 11 years of my life I’ve dedicated all my training and off-seasons and stuff to prepare to perform well in these events. Missing them is hard, and also coming back to them is great.
“It feels slightly different this one because for the last 10 years or so I’ve been coming and trying to prepare to win the event, whereas I don’t feel like that’s realistic for me this year. It’s a slightly different mentality. That feels a bit odd.
“I have great memories from New York and it was tough missing it last year.”