Why hip surgery might not be the end of Andy Murray's career after all
A leading hip specialist believes surgery could help Andy Murray return to his best form - provided there is not too much damage in the joint.
The former world number one withdrew from the Australian Open on Thursday and is considering going under the knife to try to resolve the problem, which has kept him sidelined since Wimbledon.
Murray has kept the exact details of the injury private but is known to have consulted a number of specialists in a bid to find the best way forward.
With a conservative approach not having allowed him to return to the court, an operation now appears a likely course of action.
Murray had hoped to avoid surgery and admitted in an emotional social media post earlier this week that he has been told the chances of a successful outcome are not as high as he would like.
Professor Max Fehily, the lead surgeon at The Manchester Hip Clinic, has extensive experience operating on athletes with similar problems.
He told Press Association Sport: "As I understand, he's got a condition called femoroacetabular impingement, which is very common in athletes.
"We see a lot of it in football, rugby, squash, tennis, and essentially it's where the ball of the hip impacts against the cup. One of the problems with athletes is, as it impacts repeatedly, eventually it can damage or tear the labrum, but it can also eventually start to cause arthritis.
"Everybody's on a spectrum, with one end being just a cartilage tear and the other end being significant joint surface damage."
Professor Fehily sees surgery as being a good option for Murray and one that could well allow him to return to the top of the sport, albeit after a significant period on the sidelines.
"He'll have had the best physio and body strengthening you can have, so then the next step is surgery," he said. "And in a way I'm surprised he's left it this long because it's very difficult to perform at his level with that kind of an injury.
"Recovery from keyhole surgery, you're looking at realistically six to 12 months before you're back at top level. He'll have done a lot of work pre-surgery to make him stronger and that will speed up his recovery.
"Based on what's in the public domain, there's no reason why he can't return to his previous level, but it will all depend on how much damage is already there."
Murray's withdrawal from the year's first grand slam appeared inevitable after he pulled out of his scheduled warm-up tournament in Brisbane earlier this week.
In a statement, the Scot said: "Sadly I won't be playing in Melbourne this year, as I am not yet ready to compete.
"I'll be flying home shortly to assess all the options but I appreciate all the messages of support and I hope to be back playing soon."
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley offered his support, saying: "We are fully aware that Andy has been going through a difficult period with his hip and that he's done everything possible to prepare for the Australian summer.
"Personally, I also know that Andy loves tennis and would do anything to play. This is a very hard decision for Andy and we totally respect it.
"We wish him the absolute best on his road to recovery and look forward to having him back in Melbourne. He is a true champion and one of our favourites."