Tim Henman believes Andy Murray could challenge for titles again in 2022 – but is unsure whether he can go the distance at Grand Slams.
Murray, whose last tournament win was in Antwerp in 2019, has been trying to get back to his best form following hip surgery.
He showed positive signs in the second half of last season, beating Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz and Hubert Hurkacz, and pushing third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets at the US Open.
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Even though he is still searching for a consistently high level, Henman believes Murray can win silverware again on the ATP Tour.
“When you reflect on his last title in Antwerp I think his game and physically he's come a long way since then. I think he can win on tour,” former British No 1 Henman told Eurosport.
“The Grand Slams I think is the question mark, when you're playing best-of-five set matches against the best players in the world and then you're having to come back and recover, he's not getting any younger and he's obviously had the hip replacement. This territory is unprecedented in sports.
“He's always going to go out there and give it his best shot. And I'll be supporting him all the way.”
Murray didn’t start his 2022 season in ideal fashion as he was beaten in the first round at the Melbourne Summer Series by world No 76 Facundo Bagnis.
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However, he battled past second seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in over three hours to make the quarter-finals of the Sydney Tennis Classicand then made the semi-finals after David Goffin had to retire injured.
Henman thinks the key for Murray is “building momentum” after several seasons disrupted by injuries and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The element that I like is that he's been able to play consistently, touchwood he hasn't had any setbacks physically, and that's how you gain momentum.
“His class is there and his form he is trying to build. So I’m really pleased for him that he's out there. He's motivated, playing against the best players in the world. He's got an amazing record in Melbourne. So fingers crossed, he can have a decent run.”
Asked whether Murray is nearly back to his best, Henman added: “Not yet. He’s still trying to build that in the biggest and best events.
Tim Henman et Andy Murray à Wimbledon en 2018.
Image credit: Getty Images
“We’ve seen some positive signs. And with a sort of consistent run of health, then I think we can see him build that momentum in tournament play because it's been so stop-start over the years but certainly at the end of last year, he had some impressive wins. And now he'll be looking to build that on that in 2022.”
One issue for Murray in the second half of 2021 and going forward is his ranking.
The former world No. 1 is now outside the top 100, meaning he needs to get wild cards for big tournaments or come through qualifying. He is also more likely to face tough first-round draws as he is not seeded.
“He doesn't want to rely on wild cards and his ranking is a reflection of not being able to play the full schedule,” said Henman.
Once he can have a decent run then I definitely see him getting back in the top 100, top 75, top 50.
“From then it gets harder, you've got to perform in the biggest events against the best players. The rankings don't lie at the end of the day, the proof will be in the pudding.”
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