You had to feel good for Andy Murray on Monday when he revealed that he had undergone right hip surgery in Melbourne.
The 30-year-old had been limping around and feeling the joint constantly in all his movements on and off the court since before Wimbledon last summer.
There’s no guarantee his hip will now be restored to the way it once was – at least for tennis purposes – as the history of some previous player hip surgeries suggests.
In the 2001-2002 period, four players underwent hip surgeries – Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil (2002), Magnus Norman of Sweden (2001), Harel Levy of Israel (2001) and Sargis Sargsian of Armenia (2001).
At the time there was discussion about a possible cause with one suggestion being that all were right-handers and all but one had right hip surgeries. A thought at the time was that the increased use of open-stance forehands was placing excessive stress on the joint.
Since that time, a few other players have had hip surgeries, including Lleyton Hewitt (left in 2008 and right in 2010) and Milos Raonic (right in 2011). Raonic’s, which happened when he was just 20 and slipped on damp grass at Wimbledon, was an unlucky misstep rather than the result of long-term wear-and-tear.
Like all injuries, hip problems vary in type and degree for different players. Hewitt and Raonic were able to continue their careers essentially unaffected.
Of the original four – Kuerten, Norman, Levy and Sargsian – only Sargsian was able to come back and be the same or better after his surgery. He reached a career-high No. 38 in singles in 2004.
There are plenty of theories about the causes of injuries – with the long and demanding yearly schedule being the most obvious. But that’s unlikely to change and injuries, especially to star players, are going to remain a fact of life in tennis.
The cumulative effect of all his tennis on Murray’s hip, and the fact that Stan Wawrinka is coming back from left knee surgeries in 2017 after a right knee operation 10 years earlier in 2007, are not totally surprising.
As for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – Nadal’s right knee has been an ongoing tendinitis issue that he continually has to manage. Probably Djokovic and his team have some kind of explanation for his right elbow problem, something that has been bothering him for close to two years.
It’s noteworthy that a generation with even better care – all the top players have a fitness trainer and a physio available at all times – is still experiencing injury setbacks.
Looking back at previous generations – a fit 39-year-old Jimmy Connors reached the 1991 US Open semifinals but has undergone hip replacement surgeries in later life. His contemporary Bjorn Borg, who basically retired at 25, has remained reasonably fit.
Boris Becker has been hobbled by hip issues related to surgeries while his old rival Stefan Edberg has been in much better shape post-career. The same for Pete Sampras compared to Andre Agassi, who has suffered through hip and back woes.
Every generation learns from the previous one. But sadly in tennis it’s just a fact of life that the breaking down of the human body is going to happen to some athletes no matter how hard they work at prevention.
This was the way things looked on Tuesday on the outside courts at Melbourne Park – but crowds will be filling those spaces on Wednesday as the 2018 Australian Open qualifying event gets underway.
All five Canadian men entered will see action on the opening day while Francoise Abanda (pictured at top with Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau), Bianca Andreescu and Carol Zhao will debut with all the other women on Thursday.
Here’s a list of the Canadian men and their opponents in the 128-player draw that requires three wins to earn a spot in the main draw and the guarantee of at least first-round losers prize money of $50,000 Aus ($48,600 Can).
Vasek Pospisil: Ranked No. 108, Pospisil comes into the qualifying off three tough matches in Hopman Cup last week – losses to Thanasi Kokkinakis, Sascha Zverev and David Goffin. His first-round match on Wednesday will be against 26-year-old Lorenzo Giustino. The Italian is ranked No. 259 and in nine previous qualifying tries at Grand Slam tournaments he has never made it to the main draw.
Peter Polansky: This Australia Open qualifying will be the 32nd at a Grand Slam event for the 29-year-old from Thornhill, Ont. He has succeeded five times and will hope to make it six when he starts off on Wednesday against No. 171-ranked Joao Domingues. The 24-year-old Portuguese will be playing in only his third Grand Slam qualifying – having lost last year 6-3, 6-3 to Andrey Rublev at Wimbledon and 6-0, 6-1 to Radu Albot at the US Open in his only previous matches.
Brayden Schnur: The 22-year-old from Pickering, Ont., enters the qualifying after finishing runner-up at the $75,000 Playford (Adelaide) Challenger event last Sunday. Currently at a career-high No. 185, Schnur will take on Yuki Bhambri of India on Wednesday. The two played the reduced to best-of-three-sets, exhibition fifth match in the Davis Cup World Group play-offs in Edmonton in September with the 25-year-old Indian, ranked No. 121, winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Filip Peliwo: In the third Grand Slam qualifying of his career, the No. 187-ranked Peliwo will face No. 112 Cameron Norrie. The 22-year-old Brit is playing in only his second Grand Slam qualifying but he was successful in his only previous attempt. At the 2017 US Open he reached the main-draw second round before losing 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 to No. 19-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.
Peliwo, 23, finished strong in 2017 – winning the $75,000 Knoxville Challenger where he won a total of eight (three in qualifying) matches. Last week in the first round of Brisbane qualifying, he was beaten 6-2, 6-2 by Peter Polansky.
Frank Dancevic: Currently No. 364, the 33-year-old Dancevic used his injury-protected ranking of No. 241 to get into the qualifying. He will play No. 126-ranked Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain. At 32, Menendez-Maceiras is playing in his 33rd Grand Slam qualifying and has only made it through three times. But he did beat Dancevic 6-3, 7-6(5) on clay in the French Open qualifying in 2013. Dancevic, 33, is playing in his 30th Grand Slam qualifying and has a unique record in his six previous appearances at the Australian Open – either he loses in the first round (three) or he wins three rounds (three) and qualifies.
Denis Shapovalov will face second-seed Juan Martin del Potro at the Auckland ATP 250 event on Wednesday. In their only previous meeting, Shapovalov surprised the 2009 US Open champion 6-3, 7-6(4) in the second round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal in August.
So far in 2018, the No. 50-ranked Shapovalov played well in a competitive 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-4 loss to Kyle Edmund in the first round at the Brisbane ATP 250 last week.
Then in the opening round in Auckland this week he scored a one-sided 6-3, 6-2 win in 55 minutes over Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva, the player against whom he had to save four match points in the opening round in Montreal last summer.
The No. 12-ranked del Potro had an opening-round bye and is playing his first tour match since a loss to John Isner at the Paris/Bercy ATP Masters 1000 on November 3rd.
Fans of the ESPN show ‘Pardon the Interruption’ (PTI) will know that co-host Michael Wilbon likes to use the term knucklehead. Unfortunately Wilbon himself hardly has enough hair to make a visit to this Melbourne barber shop worthwhile – which perhaps is not a bad thing.
NOTE: Back on Wednesday with the story of the first day of qualifying.