Major doubts have emerged over Andy Murray‘s recovery from hip surgery and his fitness for the grass-court season.
The former world number one has not played a competitive match since Wimbledon last summer and has twice aborted comeback attempts, first at the US Open and then in Australia in January.
After the second of those he went under the knife in Melbourne and was initially very positive about his prospects.
Following a successful period in the gym, he expressed hope he would be able to return before the grass-court season and the Lawn Tennis Association created two new second-tier tournaments in Glasgow and Loughborough, partly with Murray’s comeback in mind.
But the Glasgow event came and went last week without him and Murray is not on the entry list for the tournament in Loughborough, beginning on May 21.
The Scot, who turns 31 next week, has been notably quiet on social media since a flurry of activity when he returned to on-court training in France at the end of March.
He has reportedly not been seen at his training base at Wimbledon for a number of weeks, and his coach Jamie Delgado posted a picture on Twitter on Tuesday after hitting, not with Murray but Tim Henman.
Murray was on the entry list for the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club, which was released on Tuesday, while he has also entered the Libema Open in Holland, starting on June 11.
But the signs now are he could well miss both, as well as potentially Wimbledon, meaning he would not have played competitive tennis for more than a year.
Murray has continued to enter tournaments, most recently the Citi Open in Washington, which starts on July 28. In an accompanying interview with the Washington Post, the three-time grand slam champion compared his recovery to the back surgery he had in 2013, saying: “This time’s been harder. There’s been a lot more ups and downs.”
Speaking in Monte Carlo last month, Rafael Nadal gave an indication that all was not well with Murray’s recovery after revealing he had spoken to his long-time friend and rival on the phone.
The world number one said: “I know how tough and frustrating it is when you work every day and you don’t see the light of how to improve. But then one day trying things, trying treatments, one day things are going better, no? That’s what I really hope about him because he is important, very important, for our tour.”
Daria Kasatkina believes she’s back on track after a brief struggle that followed her breakthrough runner-up showing at Indian Wells in March.
The Russian, who turned 21 on Monday, snapped a three-match losing streak by defeat Wang Qiang in her Madrid opener, then claimed a smooth 6-3, 6-1 win over Romanian Sorana Cirstea to make the third round at the Caja Magica on Tuesday.
She defeated five top-10 opponents during that stretch and catapulted herself to a career-high No. 11.
But a quarter-final exit in Charleston – where she was the defending champion – along with opening round defeats in Miami, Stuttgart and Prague set Kasatkina back a little bit, but she’s happy to reveal that her mini slump is behind her now.
“It was tough after Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston, mentally it was very tough to handle this. Then I arrived to European clay in Stuttgart, which was not like really clay, so it was tough,” Kasatkina told Sport360 in Madrid on Tuesday.
“But I was pretty positive after that. I had a few tournaments which were like warm-up before the big ones like Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. I started to work better and I feel much better so I think everything is going in the right way.
“It’s a little bit pressure, some expectations from the side, and also from your side, you think if you play the finals of the big tournaments you need to play like this every week, which is really difficult. You have to get used to it and get more experience, so from this part it’s pretty tough but I’m getting used to it, thank to my team who is always supporting me.”
As a former junior Roland Garros champion (2014), Kasatkina grew up loving the clay and her only career title thus far came on the green clay of Charleston last year.
But her positive results on hard courts recently means she finds it hard to single out clay as her favourite surface nowadays.
“In juniors I used to prefer it much more than hard court but for the moment I cannot say that I prefer clay to hard courts. I like clay, but at the same time I’m feeling pretty confident on hard courts too. I’m happy because it seems like my hard-court tennis went to another level which is good,” she explains.
Kasatkina next faces either third-seeded home star Garbine Muguruza, or Croatian Donna Vekic in the third round in the Spanish capital.
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 7, 2018
Besides getting to celebrate her birthday in Madrid, Kasatkina also watched Sunday’s Clasico closely, as an avid Barcelona fan.
She once said that if she were a football player, she would be Andres Iniesta and she admits she got emotional watching him contest his last-ever Clasico.
“I was watching of course two days ago. It was very emotional, I almost cried when he left the field. Time flies unfortunately. But it was a very nice story,” said the Russian.
In Madrid, a city that loves to nap, Petra Kvitova finally got a chance to enjoy a well-deserved siesta on her day off, before she returned to the court on Tuesday to log her seventh consecutive match win.
The world No. 10 played her Madrid Open first round within 30 hours from her Prague Open final, claiming a sixth victory in as many days.
On Tuesday, she took her streak to seven in a row with a 6-3, 7-6 (8) success over Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig, who owned a clean 2-0 record against Kvitova prior to this week.
“I had a good treatment yesterday, I had a nap in the afternoon, a pretty long one actually as well, so I felt good this morning, which I’m very pleased with. I don’t have any injuries or anything, so it was a good day in the office today,” said a refreshed-looking Kvitova after securing a place in the third round in the Spanish capital.
While clay isn’t necessarily Kvitova’s favourite surface, she has enjoyed success on it. She won the Madrid trophy twice, in 2011 and 2015, and her current seven-match winning run has come on the red dirt.
The Czech two-time Wimbledon champion is having a brilliant 2018, having picked up titles in St. Petersburg, Doha and Prague. This time last year, she was preparing to return from a six-month hiatus following hand surgery for injuries she sustained in a knife attack at her apartment in December 2016.
She has since won titles on every surface, and went on a 14-match winning streak on hard courts from February to March this season.
“I need to enjoy them for sure, they are great streaks, I don’t have that many in my career anyway, so everyone is pretty excited. And this one as well, on the clay it’s very special,” said Kvitova, who next plays either Anett Kontaveit or Aliaksandra Sasnovich in round three at the Caja Magica.
“Yesterday we were saying with the team that I couldn’t really imagine coming back and winning four titles already, three this year, and it’s only May. It’s a big surprise actually for me.”
Meanwhile, two-time defending champion Simona Halep eased past an ailing Elise Mertens 6-0, 6-3 to set up a third round against qualifier Kristyna Pliskova.
Halep extended her winning streak in Madrid to 14 straight matches and ended Mertens’ 13-match winning streak. Mertens had come to the Spanish capital with back-to-back titles won in Lugano and Rabat but was dealing with a stomach illness since she arrived in Madrid.
— WTA (@WTA) May 8, 2018
Home favourite Carla Suarez Navarro put together a heroic performance to upset No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 – her fourth win in seven meetings with the Ukrainian. Suarez Navarro sealed her win on a crazy fifth match point, in which she fell on the floor while hitting a drop shot then got up and ended up securing the victory.