Tennis star Andy Murray’s biggest strengths could also become his biggest weaknesses if what the medical experts are saying is to be taken seriously
The success of the Scotsman has largely been built on sheer determination and grit to respond to setbacks, which has seen him capture three grand slam titles and two Olympic gold medals. But, his latest procedure has been described as a “last resort” by leaders in the medical field meaning that his determination to get back on top has the potential to work against him.
Murray is currently playing at Wimbledon and is as determined as ever to challenge Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as he continues a comeback that looked impossible half a year ago.
Why was it out of the question? Because the diagnosis was an early onset of arthritis in Murray’s right hip, and because he was in such pain he appeared to announce his imminent retirement ahead of the Australian Open.
Come the end of January, Murray (32) went under the knife for the second time to undertake a procedure known as hip resurfacing, which experts warn is an operation that is mostly done on over-50s.
"It’s incredibly important, in terms of willingness to return, to be determined and strong mentally," hip surgeon at the Alexandra Hospital in Manchester, Adam Hoad-Reddick, told Betway Tennis.
“But it could be a negative. Will he ignore niggles and pain that he should be listening to more? If you push on and push on, you may end up in a chronic situation where you fail to fully recover.
Hip surgeon Winston Kim from Manchester Hip & Knee Clinic, said: "There is no turning back now. It was clearly a very carefully considered decision. He will have had an awareness of the intended benefits of resurfacing.
"If it fails, the next option would be a hip replacement. I’m sure he didn't take the decision lightly; the vast majority of hip surgeons would be nervous about performing a hip resurfacing because of the potential risks, particularly in such a young, elite athlete."
Hip resurfacing is risky because it involves the implantation of a metal cap onto the ball of the hip joint and a metal socket into the 'cup' of the hip joint. A metal on metal procedure is risky and creates heated debate amongst medical professionals especially for somebody of Murray’s age who wants to compete at the highest level.
"It's slightly controversial, who should be having a resurfacing and whether it’s a better thing or not," Adam Hoad-Reddick says.
"Fit young men who want to get back to impact activity are one sub-group of patients who probably benefit from hip resurfacing, but that’s balanced with the risk of metal wear leading to raised metal ion levels."
The determined Scot is back at Wimbledon and is showing the determination and desire that he has become famous for. What are some of the risks Murray is facing?
"One should consider what the worst-case scenario is. If he rushes his recovery, the danger is that he sprains a muscle around the joint, which results in tearing a muscle. He has to balance those risks, it’s a very difficult call," Kim says.
It is worth noting that Murray would not be the first professional tennis player to recover from a resurfaced hip. Bob Bryan, the American doubles player, reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and won the Miami Open this season after having his hip resurfaced in August 2018.
"There is no pain, that's the crazy thing. It looks like he (Murray) is doing really great. It’s kind of how I felt after surgery – it felt like there was no hip," Bryan told BBC Sport in April.
If Murray’s comments “I don’t need tennis to be happy anymore” and "I've realised what’s important" are true, then perhaps the Scot will enjoy a longer career with more happy memories on court.
But his fierce competitiveness could count against him should he push his performance levels past what his body can handle. Only time will tell.
This post and content is in partnership with Betway.