Murray’s mother says former Wimbledon champ could play again

AP Phot
0 Comments

RIO DE JANEIRO — Andy Murray is currently recovering from his hip surgery, and his mother thinks the two-time Wimbledon champion still has a chance of making a return.

Murray announced last month at the Australian Open that he would compete in the season’s first major but might never be able to play again. He lost in the first round in Melbourne and had hip resurfacing surgery about two weeks ago.

Judy Murray, Andy’s mother and former coach, told The Associated Press that she doesn’t think her son is done just yet.

“I don’t think we know anything, for sure nobody does,” Judy Murray said at the Rio Open, the biggest tennis tournament in South America. “But I know that he would do everything that he possibly can to give himself a chance to play again.

“I think he had the same operation as Bob Bryan after the U.S. Open, and he was playing doubles again, at Australian Open. But doubles is a very different physical proposition as singles. I think, right now, (we have to) wait and see.”

When Andy Murray made his surprise announcement ahead of the Australian Open, he said he would at least like to keep playing until Wimbledon – the tournament he won in 2013 to become the first British male champion at the All England Club in 77 years.

Murray won the Wimbledon title again in 2016, as well as winning one U.S. Open title and two Olympic gold medals. He was also ranked No. 1 in the world for 41 weeks.

Judy Murray, speaking at the stylish Jockey Club after being invited to the ATP tournament, said she thinks her son is still struggling with the idea of never playing again. If he sees a chance to return, he will take it, she said.

“I think he will, (but) I think he’s aware that it might not be possible,” Judy Murray said. “He is a smart guy, he has a lot of interest in different things, he has a lot of options in life after tennis. But the most important thing is that he’s free from the pain he’s had for 20 months. He has a young family, you have to think about the quality of life for the rest of your life. Actually, that’s the most important thing.”

Andy Murray has said that “overtraining” during his younger years may have led to the recent operation that included removing the damaged bone and cartilage within his right hip socket and replacing it with a metal shell. Judy Murray was coaching both of her sons during those early years, but she didn’t necessarily agree that too much practice was the reason.

“Well, not too much,” Judy Murray said. “You learn from your mistakes, both with Jamie and Andy we were learning as we went along, because nobody had done it from Scotland before. So, there was nobody to follow, nobody to give us advice.”

Still, she did quite a job coaching her boys. Besides Andy reaching No. 1 and winning Wimbledon, Jamie reached No. 1 in doubles and won a pair of mixed doubles titles at the All England Club, among others.

“They did amazing things,” Judy Murray said. “Nobody could have ever having expected them to become No. 1 coming from a small town in the middle of Scotland.”

The highest point in her memory, however, came in the Davis Cup. Britain was facing Australia in the semifinals, the best-of-five series was being played in Glasgow, and both of her sons were on the team.

“Andy played with Jamie, and we weren’t sure if he’s going to play the doubles, because of course he has to play singles on Friday and Sunday, and to play three matches in a row best of five sets is tough,” Judy Murray said. “So we weren’t sure until the last minute that he was going to play the doubles. And it was in Glasgow, in Scotland, where we live, where tennis is a very tiny sport, just 1 percent of the population plays tennis. Nobody would ever have expected us to have Grand Slam champions.

“So, I was seated in this venue, which is an Athletics Arena, so 9,000 people in Scotland, I watched Jamie and Andy walk out, with Leon Smith as a captain, who I started with as a coach when he was 20, so he’s like my third son. I just look around and said, `Whoa! Whoever would have believed we would have Davis Cup semifinal with Scottish players, Scottish captain and in Scotland.’ So, for me it was the biggest moment, so many things coming together at the same time.”

Another moment, possibly a final moment, could still be coming at Wimbledon.

Rybakina, Sabalenka to meet in Australian Open women’s final

australian open
Mike Frey/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

MELBOURNE, Australia — What all seemed so different, so daunting, even, about trying to win a Grand Slam title to Elena Rybakina a little more than six months ago is now coming rather naturally.

And if she can win one more match, she will add a championship at the Australian Open to the one she collected at Wimbledon.

Rybakina, a 23-year-old who represents Kazakhstan, reached her second final in a span of three major tournaments by beating Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (4), 6-3 at Melbourne Park on Thursday, signaling a rapid rise toward the top of tennis.

“Everything was new at Wimbledon,” Rybakina said after hitting nine aces in the semifinals to raise her tournament-leading total to 44. “Now I more or less understand what to expect.”

That could come in handy Saturday, when she will face No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. Sabalenka reached her first Grand Slam title match at age 24 by beating unseeded Magda Linette 7-6 (1), 6-2 in Thursday’s second semifinal.

Sabalenka improved to 10-0 in 2023, winning all 20 sets she has contested this season.

More importantly, the victory over Linette gave Sabalenka her first taste of success in a Slam semi after going 0-3 at that stage until now, losing each previous attempt by a 6-4 score in the third set.

Rybakina and Sabalenka employ a somewhat similar brand of tennis, relying on big serves and big hitting at the baseline. Sabalenka is far less cautious, though, and her penchant for high-risk, high-reward play was evident against Linette, who had never before been past the third round in 29 appearances at majors.

Sabalenka finished with a whopping 33-9 edge in winners, but also compiled more unforced errors – including a trio that led to a break at love by Linette in the opening game.

The key to both semifinals turned out to be a first-set tiebreaker. Azarenka lost the mark on her strokes, for the most part, making things smoother for Rybakina, while Sabalenka raced to a 6-0 lead in hers. It wasn’t the case that each and every shot Sabalenka hit landed right on a line, but it must have seemed that way to Linette.

“In the tiebreaker, I really found my rhythm,” Sabalenka said. “Started trusting myself. Started going for my shots.”

Rybakina’s win over Azarenka, the champion at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013, added to what already was an impressive run through a string of top opponents. She also beat No. 1 Iga Swiatek and No. 17 Jelena Ostapenko – both owners of major titles – and 2022 Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins.

“For sure, they’re very experienced players,” said Rybakina, whose parents and sister have been in town throughout the Australian Open. “I knew that I have to focus on every point.”

She delivered serves at up to 117 mph (189 kph) and stinging groundstrokes that she used to close points seemingly at will on Thursday. Her performance was particularly noteworthy against a returner and defender as established on hard courts as Azarenka, a former No. 1 and a three-time runner-up at the U.S. Open.

“Kind of hard to digest,” Azarenka said. “Obviously, I had quite a few chances that I gave myself.”

Rybakina is just 23, 10 years younger than Azarenka, and the future sure looks bright at the moment.

Rybakina might be seeded just 22nd in Melbourne, and ranked just 25th, but those numbers are rather misleading and not indicative at all of her talent and form. She did not get the usual bump from her title last July at Wimbledon, where zero rankings points were awarded after the All England Club banned players from Russia and Belarus because of the invasion of Ukraine.

Rybakina was born in Moscow; she switched to Kazakhstan in 2018, when that country offered to fund her tennis career.

It was breezy and chilly at Rod Laver Arena from the start of Rybakina vs. Azarenka, with the temperature dipping below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius).

That had a role in the way the first set was as much of a seesaw as can be, with each player seeming to gain the upper hand – and then ceding it just as quickly. Both found the conditions slowed down the tennis balls.

“Kind of misjudged a lot of balls,” Azarenka said.

Rybakina encountered similar issues and her occasional inconsistency was encapsulated by the very first game. She began, inauspiciously enough, with a double-fault, before holding with the help of three aces.

Azarenka nosed ahead by breaking for a 3-2 lead on a leaping, full-extension volley winner with both women at the net. Rybakina, though, broke right back, and then once more to go up 5-3.

Azarenka saved a set point at 5-3 with a terrific down-the-line forehand passing shot, wound up taking the game with a backhand she accented with a shout of “Let’s go!”

A mistake-filled tiebreaker ended with Azarenka pushing a forehand wide to cap an 11-shot exchange, and the set belonged to Rybakina. She broke at love for a 2-1 lead in the second, and while they competed for another 25 minutes, the outcome was never really much in doubt.

Sure, Rybakina again faltered for a bit while trying to serve out the victory at 5-2. No one expected Azarenka to go quietly. But one last break, aided by a double-fault from Azarenka, allowed Rybakina to take another step toward another trophy.

“Ready,” she said, “to give everything I have left.”

Paul, McDonald on US Davis Cup team; Nainkin interim captain

us davis cup
Mike Frey/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul and the player who eliminated Rafael Nadal at Melbourne Park, Mackenzie McDonald, are among the players picked by interim captain David Nainkin for the U.S. Davis Cup team’s matches at Uzbekistan next week.

Nainkin’s appointment was announced Friday, three weeks after Mardy Fish’s tenure as captain ended.

Nainkin has been with the U.S. Tennis Association since 2004. He will be assisted against Uzbekistan by Dean Goldfine, who coached 20-year-old Ben Shelton during his quarterfinal run at the Australian Open.

Paul beat Shelton in that round before losing to Novak Djokovic on Friday night.

The other members of the U.S. roster are Denis Kudla, Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek. Kudla replaces Jenson Brooksby on the team.

The matches will be played on indoor hard courts on Feb. 3-4.