Tennis Expert & Columnist
Andy Murray's goal of a grass-court return will be 'tough', says Barry Cowan
"He has given himself a goal which is the grass-court period - I think that will be tough"
Last Updated: 09/01/18 6:11am
Andy Murray faces a "tough" battle to return in time from hip surgery for the grass-court season, but the former world No 1’s "fierce competitor" instincts will be vital in his comeback, says Barry Cowan.
The three-time Grand Slam champion, forced to pull out of the season's opening Grand Slam - the Australian Open, revealed through his Facebook page that he had undergone hip surgery in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Murray eyes summer return after surgery
Britain's Andy Murray has had hip surgery in Australia and is hoping to return to competitive tennis for the 2018 grass-court season.
Murray, the former world No 1, has not played since a quarter-final exit to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon last July but is targeting a return in time for the grass-court season.
"I think it [undergoing surgery] is a positive move - he obviously wants to come back," Cowan told Sky Sports News.
"He has given himself a goal which is the grass-court period - I think that will be tough.
"I have concerns if you haven't played for a year and you are coming back on grass then sometimes that can be difficult on your body.
"But for now I think his goal will be to try and get himself fit and let's hope we can see him back playing some great tennis in the not too distant future."
Murray, both a Davis Cup champion and Rio Olympic gold medallist, attempted to play at the US Open last summer but was forced to pull out on the eve of the tournament at Flushing Meadows with the hip injury that he picked up during June's French Open semi-final against Stan Wawrinka, though he has had issues with it throughout his career.
A return in time for the grass-court season, which includes Queen's - a tournament he has won five times, would enable him to target a third Wimbledon title but would come after almost a year's absence on the tennis scene.
But with all these great champions I have always been reticent [to write them off]. They become the very best because of their incredible motivation and incredible will to win.
When asked whether Murray can still win Grand Slam titles on his return, Cowan, who described the British No 1 as a "great champion", said: "I think it is an impossible question to answer.
"Obviously with the surgeon [Dr John O'Donnell] he is going to say the operation was a success. The rehab and building his practice levels up are the next step.
"Then, of course, the most difficult aspect is when he starts competing again. A year is a long time. It is an incredible amount of time he will have lost.
"But with all these great champions I have always been reticent [to write them off]. They become the very best because of their incredible motivation and incredible will to win.
"If that is still there from Andy then that is very important. I would say that is the most important aspect."
Roger Federer was forced into a six-month injury lay-off during the second half of the 2016 campaign before he enjoyed a renaissance in form to claim two Grand Slam titles last year but Cowan believes the extended nature of Murray's absence makes his return a tougher task.
When asked to what extent the recovery from surgery will have on Murray, Cowan said: "I think if you were asking me that question and he had to comeback and play competitive tennis in a weeks' time then you would say that is tough but he has another six months.
"There is time for him to recover. My biggest worry is the fact that he has had the operation but it's also that he will have had a year out.
"I would then say he has another six months and that is probably on the positive side of him getting enough matches under his belt and being able to really put himself in the later stages of the big events.
"So that will be 18 months - that is a long time. People will point to Federer but he only had six months out at the end of 2016. Andy will be 31 this year so he is not a 22-year-old.
"The older you get the tougher it is but he is a fierce competitor and he has always wanted to be the very best.
"That is the most encouraging part - that he is desperate to get back into action and if he believes he can do it then I don't think any of us should have a doubt."
Tennis updates straight to your phone
How to receive all the latest tennis news straight to your mobile
Follow the Australian Open with Sky Sports
We will be covering the Australian Open on skysports.com/tennis with news, previews, live blogs, reports and expert analysis. On the move? Head to our app for mobile devices and iPad, or follow our Twitter account @SkySportsTennis