Andy Murray pulls out of Challenger event to prepare for ATP Tour return in Montpellier
Andy Murray played five matches in six days at a Challenger event in Biella last week before losing the final to world No.212 Illya Marchenko; former world No. 1 was due to play in another event but will instead fly to France to prepare for ATP Tour event
Last Updated: 18/02/21 10:05am
Andy Murray has pulled out of a Challenger event in Italy to prepare for his full return to the ATP Tour next week.
The former world No 1, who had to miss the Australian Open due to testing positive for coronavirus last month, was runner-up to Illya Marchenko at last week's second-tier event in northern Italy.
But rather than stay on in Biella to continue his comeback in the second tournament to be held there, Murray has opted to travel to Montpellier and prepare for the Open Sud de France.
It is understood Murray is happy with the number of matches he got under his belt - five in six days - in his run to the final at the initial event and plans to leave for France on Thursday.
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The 33-year-old, who had not played a competitive match since October until he arrived in Italy last week, has been handed a wild card for the ATP 250 event, which starts next Monday.
Murray is currently ranked 125th in the world as he continues his comeback from the hip surgery which saved his career.
Tim Henman believes Murray can return to his former glories although Grand Slams may prove a step too far.
It was a jarring sight seeing Murray battling away in a sports hall while the world's best players competed in the Australian Open but an ill-timed bout of coronavirus prevented him from travelling to Melbourne, and the 33-year-old did not want to waste time.
Henman said: "I watched some of his matches last week and spoke to [coach] Jamie Delgado and it's great that he played five matches in six days.
"I think it also speaks volumes about his hunger and desire. It can't be easy when you've got the Australian Open going on in the background and you're at a lower-level event.
"The more I'm seeing him compete, I think his movement is going in the right direction and so the more he can play matches and his body can recover, then I think the more opportunity he's got of stepping up to the next level.
"When I look back to the tournament he won in Antwerp at the end of 2019, his movement is much better now. If he could win that tournament, can he get back to win again on the main tour? I think he can."