Andy Murray will no longer be British No 1 come next Monday but the good news for the Scot is that he is on track to make his return to competition this summer.
Murray, who will be overtaken by his fellow Briton Kyle Edmund in next week’s updated world rankings list, has been working hard on his fitness following the hip surgery he underwent in the first week of January.
For the moment Murray is restricting his training to the gym, where he has been using weights and working on exercise bikes and a Versaclimber. He has also been doing pilates work.
Although Murray has not set a date for his return to the court he is hoping to start practising again within the next month. He then plans to go away for some warm-weather training, which he has previously done in either Miami or Dubai.
The former world No 1 is still on target to make his return to competition during this summer’s grass-court season, but in the light of the good progress he has been making there is a chance that he will return even earlier than that.
Murray has not competed since Wimbledon last summer, having first suffered a problem with his right hip at the French Open in June. By the time he lost to Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals at the All England Club, Murray was in considerable pain and his attempts to return at last year’s US Open and this year’s Australian Open both ended in failure.
It was after pulling out of his intended comeback tournament in Brisbane in the first week of January and then withdrawing from the Australian Open that he decided to have surgery. While it is possible that Murray would be fit to return at the French Open, which starts at the end of May, it may well be that he will prefer to focus his energies on the grass-court season, particularly as clay has always been his most challenging surface in the past.
Murray’s return could provide a significant boost to the British grass-court season as he is likely to seek some competition in the build-up to Wimbledon. The Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club has been his regular build-up tournament before he heads for Wimbledon, but there will be additional opportunities to play on grass.
There are Challenger grass-court events early in June at Surbiton - which could hardly be closer to Murray’s Surrey home - and Nottingham in the two weeks leading up to Queen’s Club. However, he could also opt to play in a main tour event at either Stuttgart or ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands in the same week as Nottingham.
Murray, who was world No 1 as recently as August, is currently No 21 in the rankings and likely to drop out of the top 30 next week, when he will lose the 500 points he earned for winning the title in Dubai 12 months ago. That means he will fall behind Edmund, who currently sits at No 25 in the rankings.
By the end of the French Open, when he will lose the 720 ranking points he earned at Roland Garros last summer, Murray will have fallen out of the world’s top 100. He would be unseeded at Wimbledon, which would mean that he could face any of the top players in the first round.
A player secures entry into tournaments by virtue of his world ranking, but Murray will not have any problems getting into events for the rest of this year.
Plenty of tournaments will be more than happy to offer him wild cards and he can also use a “protected” world ranking, which is available to players who have been out of competition for more than six months. A protected ranking reflects the player’s position in the world order before their injury.