As he tries to work his way back up the rankings, Andy Murray took a significant step in his recovery by playing his first singles match since January at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati.
Though he lost to Richard Gasquet in straight sets, Murray knows it’s all part of the process as injuries and the subsequent layoffs are things every professional tennis player ends up dealing with at some point: facts that Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal—his peers among the ATP’s “Big 4”—can attest to.
All of them have had to make a comeback or several at some point in their careers. Here’s how they’ve fared in some of those first matches back.
Coping with injuries has been a way of life for the Spaniard over the course of his legendary career. After a surprise second-round loss at Wimbledon in 2012, Nadal was forced to shut down the rest of his campaign due to knee tendinitis. A stomach virus kept him out of the 2013 Australian Open, and he made his season debut in Chile. He won his first match against Federico Delbonis, and ended up advancing to the final, where he was upset by Horacio Zeballos. Nadal would go on to notch one of the game’s greatest comeback seasons, though, by winning two Slams that year and returning to No. 1.
The Serbian, who in 2016 completed the career Grand Slam at the French Open, was waylaid by an elbow injury in 2017, retiring from his quarterfinal at Wimbledon, which would be his last match of the year. He came back in 2018 at the Australian Open, defeating Donald Young in the first round and advancing to the round of 16, where he was upset by Hyeon Chung. Djokovic took another break, returning at Indian Wells, but Taro Daniel stopped him in his tracks. Navigating through some tough months, he won Wimbledon and finished the season back on top of the rankings.
Perhaps it’s due to his more aggressive style of play, which has led to less time spent on the court, but Federer has been the healthiest among the four. However, a knee injury in 2016, the first major one of his career, led to him ending his season early as he didn’t play after Wimbledon. He went without a title that year and ended his campaign outside of the Top 10—results that once seemed unfathomable. The following January, Federer returned to the court at the Hopman Cup, making his first appearance in Perth in 15 years, and he won his opener against Dan Evans of Great Britain, eventually helping Switzerland reached the final. After that, he took off: winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon that year to prove he was far from done.
The former world No. 1, who had to deal with the repercussions of back surgery a few years ago, has been battling through a hip injury for the past two seasons now. His first attempt at a comeback took place last year during the grass-court stretch. After shutting down his 2017 efforts early post-Wimbledon, Murray didn’t return to the court until Queen’s Club nearly 12 months later. Facing Nick Kyrgios in the first round, Murray fell to the young Australian for the first time. He managed to make a go at a few more matches the following weeks before taking to the sidelines once again. Murray started his latest comeback on the doubles court this year, with a positive result right away: He and Feliciano Lopez won the title at Queen’s Club.
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