Greg Rusedski has warned Andy Murray still has a long road ahead if he is to return to the top of the game.
The former world number one has surprised many, including Rusedski, with the level at which he has been able to play only eight and a half months after hip resurfacing surgery.
In a three-week stint in China, Murray beat now world number 11 Matteo Berrettini and pushed Dominic Thiem and Fabio Fognini hard in close defeats.
It was a big step up from the performances Murray produced on his return to singles action in America in August and gave hope to his fans, as well as the Scot, that he could perhaps again challenge for tennis’ biggest titles.
But, after two years of struggles with his right hip and at the age of 32, Rusedski believes it is too early to make future predictions.
The former British number one told the PA News Agency: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I thought it would be much more difficult for him, I thought it would take a little bit longer, but he’s played very, very well.
“The question mark is still how much can his body take week in, week out. There’s still a long road back.
“He’s played two matches back to back, but can he play three, four, five days in a row? It’s too hard to predict. I think we’ll know more when he plays the Australian Open and a three-out-of-five-set match.
“It’s not his mentality or his tennis, it’s what the body will allow him to do. But the signs are very positive.”
Rusedski and Murray are on a list that now includes Dan Evans, who at 43 in the world is the top-ranked player in Britain for the first time.
Evans’ stellar form since returning unranked from a year-long drugs ban last spring coupled with Kyle Edmund’s slide has left the 29-year-old in top spot, and Rusedski believes he can climb significantly higher.
“Sometimes you go through difficult situations and it forces you to grow up and take stock and do all those things that Dan has done,” said Rusedski.
“We’ve always known he had the talent and the ability and I had a feeling at the beginning of this year when I saw him in Australia that he was going to have a fantastic season.
“I think top 20 would be a realistic goal for him if he can keep on the momentum he’s had this season.”
Edmund will find himself outside the top 70 on Monday having started the season ranked 14.
A knee injury plagued him for the first half of the season and Edmund is currently on a seven-match losing run dating back to early August.
Rusedski also cited the split from coach Fredrik Rosengren, who retired abruptly in February.
“He’s got to reset, look at what he needs to do and really use this off season to push forward and improve his game,” said Rusedski, a former coach of Edmund.
“It’s hard to get up to the top 15 but it’s even harder to stay there because you’ve got to continually get better, you have to be healthy and you have to have the right team around you.
“The second year when you get there is always the toughest, which Kyle’s gone through, and year three is usually the rebound year so there’s no reason why Kyle shouldn’t be back in the top 50 in 2020.”
Rusedski was speaking while he helped out at a Cancer Research UK shop to launch the charity’s partnership with the Nitto ATP Finals in London next month.
A treasure hunt across several Cancer Research UK shops in London and on the charity’s EBay shop from October 18 to November 10 will offer fans the chance to claim prizes including signed items from leading players.
Rusedski said: “Everybody in their life has been affected with cancer somehow or another, so I think it’s a great cause and a great partnership.”
The tournament at the O2 is shaping up to be a battle of the young challengers versus the old guard, with US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev the current front runner to be the best of the next generation.
Medvedev’s success has reignited the debate about when a new face is going to win a grand slam.
“It’s getting closer,” said Rusedski. “I thought it was either going to be next year or the year after. Medvedev is the guy you’re looking at who could possibly win one. It’ll be a very exciting end of the season, which will set up 2020 beautifully.”
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Dan Evans beat Australian Bernard Tomic 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to progress through to the second round of the Intrum Stockholm Open.
Tomic fought back after going a set down, and managed to save two match points in the decisive third set, but was unable to stop the British number one securing the win.
Evans is set to face Norway’s Casper Ruud or Serbian Filip Krajinovic in the second round.
American and sixth tournament seed Reilly Opelka fell to Italian Stefano Travaglia 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
In Antwerp at the European Open, former world number five Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets.
Fifth seed Guido Pella needed three sets to beat Peter Gojowczyk, going through 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (2) against the world number 111.
Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova will put her experience to the test against 18-year-old sensation Amanda Anisimova at the 12th edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC).
The announcement of the female players comes just two days after 19-time Grand Slam ace Rafael Nadal and his 2019 US Open final opponent Daniil Medvedev were confirmed for the six-man line-up.
The Championship, which is set to take place from December 19-21 at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, will feature six of the top male players and two leading female players as the world’s top players fight it out to lay their hands on the coveted trophies.
“In just over a decade, the Mubadala World Tennis Championship has earned and cemented its reputation as the people’s favourite event in Abu Dhabi. We strive to make way for the best with every edition and in Maria Sharapova and Amanda Anisimova, spectators will truly see the best of tennis,” said John Lickrish, CEO, Flash Entertainment.
“Confirming four of the biggest names in tennis in a matter of days demonstrates the appeal of this championship amongst the players and its attraction for domestic and international visitors who will get an unmissable experience, a blend of the best tennis action on court and the best entertainment and interactive competitions off court.”
Sharapova, who has won 36 WTA titles since turning professional in 2001, is always a big draw wherever she plays and will prove a popular addition to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship when she lines up for her Abu Dhabi debut in December.
“I’ve been told December is a great time of year to visit and I want everyone to come and join us in having some fun,” said the 32-year-old.
For Anisimova, the Mubadala World Tennis Championship provides another opportunity to continue impressing on her fledging journey in tennis and test herself against the best.
“I will be making my first visit to Abu Dhabi and I want to make sure I’m bringing my A-game to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship and show the spectators what I can do,” said the young American, who is ranked 29th in the world.
With the Mubadala World Tennis Championship brought forward a week from its usual spot on the calendar, the new dates in mid December will enhance the festival feel of the championship for both fans and players.
Tickets start from AED 100 for Adults and are now on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae and Virgin Megastores across the UAE. Three Day and Travel packages are also available at 20% discount.