Like Andy Murray, American doubles star Bob Bryan feared the worst when chronic hip pain meant he could no longer play tennis.
Yet one of the Grand-Slam winning twins was back in action at the Australian Open yesterday thanks to improving surgical techniques, and he believes it is possible that one day Murray could follow him.
As Murray headed back to England Bryan talked of how an operation he underwent in New York early last August has helped him return to the court.
Andy Murray has been urged to take hip surgery and give himself a chance to make a return
Doubles ace Bob Bryan insists Murray could make a return if he presses ahead for hip surgery
He has spoken extensively to the 31-year-old Scot over many months, and has strongly recommended using the services of his surgeon Edwin Su, who has helped athletes from other sports clear up hip problems.
‘I personally think he can do it,’ said Bryan of Murray, who he has known for many years. ‘He (Su) is the only guy that’s gotten professional athletes back to their profession. He’s done a baseball guy, an NBA guy, and a hockey guy. No tennis player yet until me has come back.’
Playing with his brother Mike, he is through to the second round and clearly very excited to be playing again, evangelising about his treatment. Yet as he acknowledged, there is always the caveat that playing doubles is less physically punishing than being alone on the singles court.
He has already offered Murray plenty of encouragement and says that the Scot has been ‘watching me like a hawk’.
It remains unclear if Murray will play competitive tennis again after his Australian Open defeat
‘I would love to see him do a similar surgery, feel the relief that it gives. I think our hips are pretty similar: just worn down, no cartilage,’ said Bryan.
‘That guy (Murray) does everything you can possibly do as far as training and rehab. He’s talked to a million specialists. But I’m really the only guy to be playing on tour with a metal hip. It’s called a hip resurfacing with an artificial implant. It’s a full replacement.’
According to his mother Judy, Murray delayed his departure until yesterday because he still felt hugely sore after his five set defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut on Monday evening.
Bryan was watching that closely, and is well aware of the extra demands on singles players.
‘I’m just trying to be supportive,’ he said. ‘I never once told him this is the way to go because I do see that singles is a different monster. Those guys are really sliding around, killing themselves for four hours. Who knows if this joint would hold up. If you’re a step slow it’s very exposed out on a singles court.
‘I’m just trying to be supportive. I’m just telling him, I feel great, quality of life is great, practices are going well. Maybe I’m not 100 per cent yet, but I’m only five months. The doctors said this is more of like a seven or eight months until you feel perfect.
The Briton fought valiantly but was beaten in five sets on Monday by Roberto Bautista Agut
‘I had the operation on August 2. I was on crutches a couple days later. I was at the US Open three weeks after surgery with a cane. At the end of September I was just hitting some light balls.
‘We started our training December 5, hitting some balls pretty hard, playing some sets.’
Bryan revealed that Murray has spoken to the New York-based doctor, and has been eager to discover all the details from the former Wimbledon doubles champion: ‘He’s asking me how I’m feeling after matches, after practices, where I’m at. He’s just trying to gauge how long it would take him, if this procedure is an option.
‘I can’t give you the guarantee, but I think he’s to the point where this is probably his last option. I would love to see him do it just for quality of life. You can sleep, walk, be with your kids, play. It’s frustrating when you can’t put on your shoes.’
Before leaving Murray said that he expects to make a decision in the next week, knowing that going for the operation jeopardises his dream of playing at least one more time at Wimbledon.
Bryan insists there are no guarantees but surgery would give Murray a better quality of life
His brother Jamie said that his prime concern was that his sibling can enjoy a full quality of life after twenty months of misery.
‘I just hope that, whatever happens, he can get back to just regular life, pain-free, and be able to enjoy himself and not be in constant pain,’ said the older of the two brothers.
‘If he’s able to come back and play tennis, if that’s what he wants to do, then I’m sure he’ll give it everything he can. But I think for me it’s just important that he gets back to regular life and is able to do what he wants to do.’