Former British number one Greg Rusedski believes that Andy Murray is set for a year that will define his career.
The two-time Wimbledon champion has struggled on his return from injury and has failed to make the quarter-finals of a singles event since 2017.
Now ranked outside the top 100, he faces tougher opponents in the earlier rounds of tournaments and so has struggled to find a run of form this season despite a return to fitness.
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And Rusedski claims that the next year could be make or break for the Scot and whether he can cope with injuries and life as an unseeded competitor.
"I think in 2022 we will know what Andy Murray is going to do," he said. "Is he going to continue on tour or is it going to be his last year? I think this is kind of the season that's going to determine how much longer we're going to see of that great champion.
"Next year is going to allow him to make the decision he wants because he will look back at this year and say, 'I trained really hard in the off-season, I was very unlucky I caught Covid when I was ready for the Australian Open', which is one of his favourite tournaments.”
Andy Murray will sich nach Rückschlägen zurück an die Weltspitze kämpfen
Image credit: Getty Images
"The problem he's going to have is he's not going to be seeded at these events. He's 144 in the world and to get his ranking up he's going to have to beat two or three top 10 players back to back, especially in these Masters Series events."
Murray has played tournaments In Metz, San Diego, Indian Wells, Antwerp and Vienna so far this season, and has come up against top 20 players earlier than expected in the competitions.
And it was the defeat in Paris to world No. 58, Dominik Koepfer, that led to Rusedski starting question his future at the top of the game.
“His defeat to Dominik Koepfer was a little bit disappointing to be honest," he added.
Physically his body really didn't warm up for the first set and a bit. When his opponent served for the match at 5-4, he wasn't moving well, he wasn't striking the ball well. And he had seven match points and couldn't find a way through that match so I think it's going to be a hard road back to where he wants to.
With Novak Djokovic holding the world number one spot at the age of 34, the number of players playing into their 30s offers encouragement to Murray.
But Rusedski remained realistic over whether Murray can return to his best while contending with injuries as he ages.
"Now...he can have a season where he can travel, choose his events, hopefully physically stay strong and he can make a decision on what he wants to do," he said.
"I commend him for all the hard work he's putting in but he must be extremely frustrated because he's not getting the results he wants out there even though his tennis is getting better."
During my generation over 30 was bonus time, nowadays they're playing until the mid-30s. With all the injuries he's had to come back from it gets more and more difficult."
Murray is currently planning to rest and recuperate in the off-season before travelling to Melbourne for the Australian Open, which begins on January 17.
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