Andy Murray could need six months to return to peak form, warns Tim Henman - but could be better than ever



Tim Henman thinks Andy Murray could become a better player than ever after his back surgery but believes his successor as British No 1 may need time to hit peak form. With the Australian Open just 14 days away, Murray will play his first tournament since September here at this week’s Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

Murray had an operation on a long-standing lower-back problem three months ago and has been steadily rebuilding his fitness. After a training block in Miami, he played two exhibition matches in Abu Dhabi last week. Doha promises to be the biggest step yet in his rehabilitation.

“He’s got lots of challenges to overcome,” Henman said. “One of them is the surgery. Another one will be getting back into the rhythm of tournament play and match play. He’s done that throughout his whole career because he’s had many hurdles to get over, but this is a different one. It’s not always easy coming back from surgery – and back surgery is quite a major one.”

Although Murray should have no trouble in the first round against Mousa Zayed, a Qatari wild card ranked No 2,129 in the world, the tasks quickly get tougher. Murray could play Florian Mayer in the second round, Fernando Verdasco in the quarter-finals and David Ferrer, who practised with the Scot last night, in the semi-finals. Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych are seeded to meet in the other semi-final.

Murray usually plays well after a break and has won the title in the first week of the season four times in the last six years. He won here in 2008 and 2009, did not play in the first week in 2010 and 2011 and won in Brisbane in 2012 and 2013.

“After the training blocks I always expect him to play well because that does give you a great foundation,” Henman said. “However, I think there is a very large variable this time and that’s the surgery, so I would definitely give him a lot more slack. He’s looking at the next five years. If the results don’t happen in the first three or six months and there are a few niggles along the way, then that’s the reality of where he’s at.”

Henman added: “It would be unrealistic to suddenly think it’s going to be 100 per cent. You’re always going to have niggles. Hopefully, this will give him the opportunity to play a little more pain-free and practise a bit differently. As he’s said, it’s affected him on certain shots. I’m optimistic.”

Dan Evans, the British No 2, is also starting his 2014 campaign here. The 23-year-old is one win away from a place in the main draw after beating Jan Hernych 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 in the second round of qualifying. In today’s final round he faces Japan’s Taro Daniel.

Heather Watson is beginning her season in Brisbane, where she has beaten three players in qualifying – Mandy Minella, Chanelle Scheepers and Jarmila Gajdosova – to reach the main draw. The 21-year-old was due to play Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova in the first round early on Monday.

Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas