Andy Murray is trying to marry a successful Grand Slam comeback at the US Open with changing his game style to better protect his troublesome hip.
The 31-year-old played his first Slam match in nearly 14 months on Monday at Flushing Meadows, defeating Australia’s James Duckworth in four sets.
Afterwards, Murray detailed the gruelling rehab programme lasting up to seven hours a day that he is putting himself through in an attempt to return to the top of the game.
The Scot has always been able to fall back on his superhuman defensive skills, but, with question marks about his movement long term, finding a more offensive style is surely necessary.
Murray said: “There are things that I want to focus on longer-term that are going to be beneficial for my game, like a game style that I would like to be playing.
“It’s quite clear the way I’m trying to play, but then also you go into the match with tactics and a game plan to try and make it as difficult for your opponent as possible.
“So it’s kind of a combination of the two. There are certain things I want to be doing on the match court every match that’s going to hopefully give me a better chance to get back to where I want to get to.”
Murray improved through the match against Duckworth after a slow start and, although there were signs of a limp from fairly early on, he handled the physical challenge surprisingly well in hot and humid conditions.
The Scot admitted he expects to feel pain in his hip for the rest of his career, and wrote in his BBC column: “When I’m going into the match I’m trying to prepare myself mentally that I’m not going to feel great physically after the match, or that my hip will feel painful.”
Another change Murray has made is shortening his practice sessions on non-match days during Grand Slams, saying: “I’m not going to be having intense, long practices during a Grand Slam ever again.”
Murray must now prepare for a test that will be a good barometer of where he is in comparison with the leading players, with 31st seed Fernando Verdasco up next.
The veteran Spaniard has made at least the quarter-finals at three of the four Slams and is known as an explosive player who often brings out his best against the big names.
Murray has won 13 of their 14 previous meetings, including the last eight dating back to 2009, but they have rarely been straightforward.
“Fernando is a great shot-maker and someone that, when he’s on his game, is really tough to beat,” said Murray. “You can’t allow him to dictate too much.”
Verdasco is determined to concentrate on his side of the net and not concern himself with the state of Murray’s fitness.
He said: “I need to treat it like any other meeting, it won’t change just because he has been injured. The level he had had before his surgery was amazing and obviously it’s been a very hard recovery but when he was injured I always wished him the best. Hopefully Wednesday is going to be a good day for me.”