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So great was Andy Murray’s pain at being thwarted in his efforts to compete at the Australian Open that he refused to watch from the other side of the globe and did everything he could to avoid the tournament entirely.
Murray was prevented from travelling to Australia after a positive Covid test left it impossible to fulfil the country’s strict biosecurity protocols. He instead began his year at the rather less salubrious Biella Challenger in northern Italy, where he lost to Ukrainian Illya Marchenko in the final.
Determined to prove he can climb the ladder and succeed at the highest level after multiple injury troubles, Murray now returns to ATP Tour duty at the Open Sud de France on Tuesday with a first-round match against Belarusian Egor Gerasimov. But there remains a strong sense of resentment that he was unable to prove himself at this year’s first grand slam.
Asked for his verdict on Novak Djokovic’s straight-sets win over Daniil Medvedev in Melbourne on Sunday, Murray replied: “I didn’t watch it. I was practising and I watched very little of the Australian Open. I didn’t watch any because I wanted to be there myself. It was a struggle to be honest. I stopped following all the tennis players I follow on social media because I just didn’t want to see it.”
Absent from nine of the last 13 grand slams, a bullish Murray is itching for the opportunity to prove he can still compete with the best in the world, insisting he was “pain-free” during his recent run to the final in Italy.
“I’ve played and practised with lots of top players and I know how I’m getting on against them,” he said. “If I was getting smoked when I was practising and playing with guys I wouldn’t keep going through it. But I know the level that I’m playing at.
“Obviously I’ve not competed with the top 10 players in the world but I’ve been playing and practising with guys that are between 20 and 60/70 in the world and doing absolutely fine, and that’s off the back of hardly playing any matches in the last couple of years.
“Providing I can stay fit for a period of time and get good practice and matches in, I don’t see why I won’t be able to compete with the best players. I wish I was able to show that in Australia because I was ready to do that. No question, I was ready to do that.”
Having already spoken of his frustration at believing he contracted Covid at the National Tennis Centre in London, Murray also revealed the continued difficulty that illness - from which he is fully recovered - provides as he attempts to travel from country to country for tournaments at the mercy of different governments’ Covid regulations.
“The issue is you can still test positive three to four months after you’ve had the virus,” he said. “That’s actually made things more difficult. It is a concern.”