ANDY Murray has opened up about the "mental struggle" he's faced during his recovery from hip surgery.
The tennis ace, 32, had the hip resurfacing op in January, after years of living in agonising pain – that got so bad he feared would end his career.
The three-time Grand Slam champ said it got so bad he struggled to dress himself, and day-to-day activities like walking the dogs, became almost unbearable.
After losing in the quarter finals of Wimbledon 2017, the star took the rest of the season off.
In January last year, he had the first of two ops on his hip, and vowed to return to the competitive arena.
But just 12 months later, a tearful Andy told a news conference before the Australian Open, the tournament could be his last.
Seven months later and Murray has celebrated his first ATP singles match victory since the op, defeating Tennys Sandgren at the Zhuhai Championships.
In an interview with Sun Online he admitted that while the mental struggle dealing with pain was tough, so too has been his return to the game.
He said at times during his recovery he's questioned if he really needed tennis in his life anymore.
"It's been really hard," he said.
"It’s been hard because in the last five or six months at times, I’ve thought I don’t need tennis anymore.
"I realised I’m really happy without it. Not being in pain is brilliant, I love it."
"It wasn't fun a few years ago, I wasn't enjoying it at all," he added.
"The results weren't there any more."
In the true style of a champion, Murray said as soon as he started to train again, his bug for the game returned.
He told Sun Online: "In terms of my how my hip feels – it's way better than I ever imagined because I have zero pain.
"After having that for let's say five or six years and it getting gradually worse over time, I couldn't really remember what it was like not being in pain.
"When I started to play tennis again, and started training and I'm pain free and it's fun – it's great."
But, as with any injury, the battle to recover has been fraught with its own frustrations and mental challenges.
"Obviously having played at a high level for a while, when I get on court my expectations are high – probably too high.
"I expected to pay at a really, really high level straight away, when that's really not the reality.
"It's just difficult, when you've been competing for the biggest tournament wins and then suddenly you're competing at a lower level – and not even winning – that's really difficult, mentally."
The pay off, he said, is reminding himself that however frustrating a loss is now, he is no longer living in agony.
"When I get off the court I remember, like after a few hours if I've lost, that at least I'm not in pain," Murray said.
"I have to remember the reason I'm playing tennis ultimately, is to enjoy it – it's a thing I've always loved doing since I was a kid.
"And I’m still early on in my return to playing singles competitively and I do think that physically I’ll get better over the next few months."
What is hip resurfacing surgery?
- Hip resurfacing is a type of hip replacement which replacements the surface of the hip joint
- The procedure preserves more bone than a total hip replacment
- The head of the femur or 'ball' is not removed but is reshaped to allow a metal cap to be put on top of it
- The surface of the socket is also replaced with a metal implant
- Most patients are walking comfortably six weeks after the operation
- Patients will be able to move at greater speed and distance compared to before the surgery
- Recovery will continue four to six months after the operation
- Most patients return to work and will start driving again six weeks after the surgery
Throughout his recovery, Murray said keeping active has helped him stay positive.
When asked about the benefits of exercise and mental health, he said: "I know it helps a lot.
When you’ve been in a space where you’re competing for the biggest tournaments and then suddenly you’re competing at a lower level and not even winning at that level it’s difficult mentally
"If I go four of five days without exercising I actually find myself getting quite tired and lethargic.
"Sometimes getting to the gym or out for a run can be quite difficult, getting the motivation to do it, but almost everyone I have spoken to about that – everyone feels better post working out.
"Once you actually get out and do something, obviously you can feel tired but afterwards you feel a lot more energised and more positive about whatever has happened that day."
Andy said he's also found a collagen supplement from TRR nutrition has helped aid his recovery.
He said: "At the beginning of 2018 my nutritionist approached Nutraformis and asked them to develop a pro-athlete liquid collagen supplement with a combination of active nutrients specifically formulated for me.
“I was already taking their liquid collagen joint care supplement, but my nutritionist felt I needed an advanced product that would help to support my joints, bone health and immune system."
In terms of how my hip feels – it’s way better than I ever imagined because I have zero pain
Inevitably, with any injury, Murray said his recovery has thrown up other aches and pains.
The two-time Wimbledon champ said he does now struggle with a sore back, which his physio and team keep a close eye on.
Speaking at The Queen's Club in London, he added: "One of the things is that my back has been a little bit sore.
"There’s certain areas of my body around my hips, certainly my left hip, that are sometimes a little stiff because of the prosthesis that’s in there.
"Things are in different positions and my body is still learning to adjust to that."
Andy's top fitness tips
1. Stay at home
I think there’s a lot of things you can do around your house and there’s a lot of things you can find on YouTube like workouts and stuff.
2. Do body weight work
There’s a lot to be said for doing body weight work with push ups and core workouts, squatting and wall sits and these sorts of things – you can do that all from your home.
3. Get outside.
Everyone can run outside or you can go for a walk if running is tough on your knees or joints. Just try to get out and move.
4. Stretching is key
I think stretching is important, you can do yoga routines off the internet and things like that. There are a lot of things you can do to stay in shape and make your body feel better without having to use a gym and lift weights.
5. You don't need gym membership
I think it can be a nice atmosphere in the gym and when you go there it’s something to do but unless youre lifting weights you can get yourself on a bike outside and go for a run outside and do lots of stuff without gym membership.
What is collagen and why does Andy Murray use it?
Lauren Windass a spokesperson for award winning beauty brand Absolute Collagen said: "Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, acting as a major component of connective tissues that make up our tendons, ligaments, skin and muscles.
"It also helps to maintain the integrity of our cartilage, which protects our joints.
"Researchers have now discovered that supplemental collagen can support those with joint problems.
"A study conducted on 73 athletes who consumed 10 grams of collagen daily for 6 months experienced a significant decrease in joint pain compared with a cohort that did not supplement with collagen.
"A randomised controlled trial published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicated that collagen supplementation can also help increase fat-free mass, muscle strength and overall body composition, when combined with resistance training.
"This wondrous protein is still being examined by scientists from the role it plays in recovery after exercise, preventing injury, as well as even supporting the integrity of our gut lining and our overall digestive health."
Murray said it's to be expected, after surgeons fitted a prosthesis in the joint.
He said: "When there's an impact to a normal joint there's a bit of space and the cartilage helps absorb some of the impact.
"But with the prosthesis I have, there isn't that same space or ability to absorb the impact.
"So I think that then affects higher up the chain, so I'm feeling that in my back more than I used to.
"That’s something I need to stay on top of with my physio and something that we need to take care and monitor.
"I’m training quite a lot less than what I used to as well which is a good thing. I was probably doing a bit too much before."
Andy accepted a wildcard to continue his singles comeback in the Shanghai Masters.
And he is also expecting to be in good shape for the Australian Open in January.
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