By Ros Satar
- Andy Murray came to the rescue at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships after Novak Djokovic pulled out citing his troublesome elbow injury
- Murray and MWTC finalist Roberto Bautista Agut played an exhibition set
ABU DHABI, UAE – Andy Murray came to the rescue once more to play an exhibition set at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships after Novak Djokovic withdrew.
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After months out of the game and fevered speculation, Andy Murray took to the court for only the second time since Wimbledon this year, but are there now more questions ahead of the season-proper?
Not surprisingly a bit rusty
Having seen some warm-up footage posted earlier by Reem Abulleil from Sport360.com Murray had been practising and was called in at the last moment to stand in for Novak Djokovic, whose elbow was still not good enough for him to play.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) December 29, 2017
On more than one occasion, Murray was left standing by Roberto Bautista Agut, who has had the advantage of matches on this fast court.
Even if we take away the match he played against Roger Federer for the Andy Murray Live exhibition, which was hardly played at anything like competitive intensity, it took a while for Murray to warm to the task of match-play, going down a double-break to the Spaniard.
Things did get better
It was not all doom and gloom. Sure there were double faults and at the start the serve looked like under-powered, but he came through a long game, saving two break points and then in the next game saving two match points to still show his game face.
It did not last long though, with Bautista Agut serving out the match (well, set) comfortably.
He admitted on court afterwards he had been slow at the start but not having played competitively for months, it does take some time to come back up to that pace.
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) December 29, 2017
So what next?
Murray continued to play down any fears about the full extent of the hip injury or its rehab and looked genuinely pleased to have had a chance to come out there and try and test it out. But it is clear that for a player who has always relied on his ability to run everything down, there is still a lot of work to do.
On the whole you have to believe he would not have put himself through a competitive set in front of a paying crowd if he genuinely thought it would be detrimental to his health, but in terms of his chances if he plays in the main draw of Brisbane and then on to Melbourne have to be outside at the very best.
The positives (apart from that little splash of colour on his Under Armour kit) were that we did get to see occasional decent rallies from him and the serve, which looked peculiar and other-worldly at the start beginning to find a little more force as the match went on.
He is definitely vulnerable if he gets pulled out wide to the right, and of course his opponents will try and expose that in Brisbane.
With World No. 1 Rafael Nadal looking doubtful for the Australian Open, and now surely doubts cast on Djokovic’s chances of making the start line at Melbourne, the Big Five have four of their number already struggling as the season openers loom.
Murray is scheduled to play in ATP Brisbane, 1-7 January.
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