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Andy Murray: Why his never-say-die-attitude will take him back to the top of men's tennis

Andy Murray just wants to play tennis - that's his main motivation in wanting to carry on; the two-time Wimbledon champion knows he can cause utter carnage in the Australian Open men's singles draw

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15: Andy Murray of Great Britain shows emotion during the Sydney Classic Tennis men's singles final between Andy Murray of Great Britain and Aslan Karatsev of Russia at Ken Rosewall Arena on January 15, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Steven Markham/Icon Sportswire)

Retirement? No chance. Two major surgeries, a brand new metal hip, a 'freak' groin injury, lack of form and fitness, results going against him, Covid-19 and a parting of the ways with his long-time coach. Welcome to Andy Murray's world!

At the 2019 Australian Open Murray feared that his career was over. There was even an emotional 'farewell' video played on court following his five-set defeat to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut.

The world's media were writing up his tennis obituary as he teared up in front of family, friends, spectators and the viewing public.

The Scot had previously been unable to do simple things such as put his socks and shoes on or walk his dogs without severe discomfort having first begun to experience serious hip problems in the summer of 2017.

Even after undergoing a career-saving resurfacing operation it offered no guarantee that he would be able to play top-level tennis again.

Andy Murray of Britain poses with the trophy after winning the European Open final tennis match in Antwerp, Belgium, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Murray defeated Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6/6-4/6-4. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Image: Murray last won an ATP title in Antwerp back in 2019

Later in 2019 Murray defeated old foe Stan Wawrinka in Antwerp to win his first ATP Tour title since undergoing surgery.

Fast forward 27 months through the pain and agony of the Scot trying to recapture his former glories, he may just have found the right formula having reached the final of the Sydney Tennis Classic.

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Could this be the year he roars back into the big time? Bursting with pride and passion, wearing his heart on his sleeve, finally back where he belongs.

Why didn't he just retire? "I think probably because deep down I knew that I could still play some great tennis," he said.

"I had been doing it in practice and had been doing it sort of sporadically in matches. But because of the nature of the last couple of years, as well, with Covid and then a couple of other niggles, I never really got my consistency until the end of last year, like consistency of tournaments.

"You just can't replicate that. For me, it has not just been the last couple of years. Before then, there had been another two years before that where I had hardly played. I had had so few matches in reality in comparison to what I was used to, me and my team had worked it out that since 2017 I had played fewer matches since then than I did in the whole of 2016 in a four-year period.

"I just needed to get matches in for a period of time. I've got that now. I think it was just, for me, knowing and having done it in practice that I could still compete with the best players. That was what of kind of what kept me believing, I guess."

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Greg Rusedski believes it will be a 'hard road' for Murray to get back to his best

Murray has made his short-term goals clear with the hope of winning more ATP Tour titles as well as doing deep in one or more of the Grand Slams.

"I want to try and win tournaments again. That's one of the reasons why I'm still playing, because I believe I can still do that," he said.

The three-time Grand Slam champion falls into the category of dangerous floating player who nobody wants to face as he looks to cause optimum damage in the men's draw.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, former British No 1 Andrew Castle said: "He's clearly, utterly motivated to be there.

"You can't expect Andy to win this tournament but nobody wants to play him. He might win a round, two rounds, three rounds. If he gets his teeth into it he knows how to get the job done at the top level. You've just got to marvel at the bloke for still being out there and not hobbling. He wants to play, feels like he can win. Who would deny him a place?"

Nikoloz Basilashvili, of Georgia, returns against Cameron Norrie, of Britain, in the singles final at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Image: Nikoloz Basilashvili will give Murray another severe test of his credentials over five sets in Melbourne

Murray will take on a familiar opponent in the first round of the Australian Open when he takes on Nikoloz Basilashvili - the man he beat in a pulsating encounter en route to the final in Sydney.

The big-hitting Georgian will now try to earn his first win against Murray in Melbourne, where the Scot is a five-time finalist.

"Certainly it's a tough, tough draw. Conditions in Melbourne are different to here," Murray said. "There potentially it's going to be hotter, a little bit livelier, ball bouncing a little bit higher. So it will be a different match because [it is a] different city, different conditions, different court and stuff.

"Just because I won against him doesn't mean I get a free pass into the second round. I need to go out and play another top match to win against him in Melbourne."

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