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Make or break time for Andy Murray at Australian Open

Huge doubts linger over Scot's future as he struggles to recover from hip injury.

Andy Murray has been forced to sit on the sidelines.
Andy Murray has been forced to sit on the sidelines. SNS

Andy Murray arrived in Melbourne this time last year eager for a return to action following a lengthy injury lay-off.

He ended up missing the Australian Open and instead found himself in hospital undergoing surgery on a hip injury that had troubled him since the previous summer.

12 months on, Murray is once again in Melbourne with huge doubts still lingering over his prospects.

The 31-year-old admits he is still in pain - not just on court but in his everyday life.

As Murray prepares to take on the Spanish 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round on Monday, here's everything you need to know about the Scot's opponent, current condition and relationship with the first Grand Slam of the season.

https://stv.tv/sport/tennis/1405794-andy-murray-undergoes-surgery-and-targets-summer-return/ | default

Fitness

Big question marks surround Murray's physical condition as he bids to return to his competitive best.

The tone from the man himself has changed in recent weeks. After surgery this time last year, Murray insisted he would once again be competing for major titles.

It started to become clear during a summer foray into action that Murray hadn't recovered the range of movement so crucial to his style of play. He shut down his season in September and spent time in Philadelphia with renowned reconditioning expert Bill Knowles.

His social media output suggested things were looking up as he trained with hula-hoops and wisecracked with fans and fellow pros.

But at the Brisbane International last week, Murray admitted his fitness levels were falling short of his expectations.

Tellingly, on live TV following his first round match, he hinted in an emotional on-court interview that retirement may be in his thoughts.

https://stv.tv/sport/tennis/1434202-surgeon-s-warning-as-andy-murray-begins-2019-season/ | default

Preparation

Murray managed to get two matches under his belt in Brisbane last week.

He comfortably beat Australian wildcard James Duckworth before coming up well short against world number 16 Daniil Medvedev.

The Scot then travelled to Melbourne and was on court there last Friday.

However, in the early hours of Thursday morning, he was thoroughly outplayed by old rival Novak Djokovic in an open practice match, winning just two of 12 games.

Onlookers said Murray's movement was poor and showed little signs of progress since his previous Grand Slam outing at the US Open in September.

https://stv.tv/sport/tennis/1434243-andy-murray-suffers-second-round-loss-in-brisbane/ | default

First round opponent

While perhaps not a household name, Roberto Bautista Agut presents a nightmare proposition for Murray in Monday's first round.

The Spanish world number 23 arrives in Melbourne fresh from beating Djokovic en route to winning the Qatar Open.

His hard-running, never-say-die style suggests Murray will need to put serious legwork in if he's to have any joy against the 30-year-old.

The Scot hasn't dropped a set to Bautista Agut in their three competitive encounters, but came a distant second best during an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi shortly before hip surgery.

https://stv.tv/sport/tennis/1405309-murray-replaces-injured-djokovic-in-abu-dhabi-exhibition/ | default

Melbourne memories

Murray's memories of the Australian Open are bittersweet, having reached the final five times between 2010 and 2016 but failing to get his hands on the trophy due to the brilliance of Djokovic four times and Roger Federer.

Melbourne Park has witnessed some of the Scot's greatest performances and darkest moments, such as a thrilling five-sets win over Federer in the 2013 semi-finals and being left in tears after falling to the Swiss at the final hurdle three years earlier.

His last match at the tournament came in 2017 when the then-world number one fell to German serve-and-volley specialist Mischa Zverev in the fourth round.

Last year, Murray travelled to Melbourne expecting to return to action following the initial hip injury - only to end up on the surgeon's table at the city's St Vincent's Hospital.

Murray has lost to Djokovic in four Australian Open finals.
Murray has lost to Djokovic in four Australian Open finals.

What's next?

While Murray admits his long-term prospects are without any certainty, he has plenty of dates in the diary over the coming months.

He's currently scheduled to play five hard-court tournaments in the space of two months.

First up is a first visit to Montpelier on February 4 and then Marseille two weeks later, before travelling straight to one of the year's most financially lucrative tournaments in Dubai.

Murray is then due in the US for two of the biggest events on the ATP calendar - back-to-back Masters 1000 tournaments in California and Miami.

However, given the noises coming from his camp in recent weeks, it remains to be seen how frequently Murray is able to take to the court.

https://stv.tv/sport/tennis/1432575-murray-adds-montpellier-tournament-to-2019-schedule/ | default

Other Scots heading Down Under

Jamie Murray will once again be amongst the favourites when the Australian Open gets under way on Monday.

Murray and doubles partner Bruno Soares lifted the Melbourne title in 2016 and will be looking to claim their third major as a team.

In the men's singles, Cameron Norrie - whose dad hails from Scotland - will be confident of putting on a decent show having reached the semi-finals in Auckland this week.

In the wheelchair event, Gordon Reid will be amongst the favourites in singles and doubles.

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