Murray's main challenge lies in his head: Novak

LONDON • Former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic believes overcoming the mental challenge will be Andy Murray's biggest obstacle when the Scot returns to tennis after a long absence due to a hip injury.

Murray, who has been sidelined for almost a year since losing in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last July, will face Australia's Nick Kyrgios in the first round at the Queen's Club tournament today.

"I've faced this major injury issue myself. You feel the consequences mentally more than physically," Djokovic, who is trying to recapture top form after undergoing elbow surgery earlier this year, told British media.

"I never knew it would take so long to feel comfortable with my game. He has been absent for longer than me.

"How to get it out of your head, understand that it's behind you, that you're fine now, that you're healthy and you can focus on your game rather than thinking 50 per cent of the time about whether or not something can happen.

"If you don't have mental clarity on the court, it is very difficult to play."

The 12-time Grand Slam champion also said grass might not be the ideal surface for the 31-year-old Murray to make his return.

"I don't know the state of his hips," said the Serb. "But the one thing that could be a bit dangerous is slipping on the grass.

"That's something that is very unpredictable and grass is always this kind of surface where one wrong footing can make something go wrong, especially in the hips."

Djokovic, 31, has slipped to No. 21 in the ATP rankings and his wretched run continued with an embarrassing French Open quarter-final defeat by Italian journeyman Marco Cecchinato. He has not earned a Major title since completing his career Grand Slam by winning the 2016 French Open.

He has failed to reach the semi-finals in any of his last five Grand Slams, prompting him to play Queen's for the first time since 2010 in a bid to get practice on grass before Wimbledon next month.

He will face Australian qualifier John Millman in the round of 32 today.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2018, with the headline 'Murray's main challenge lies in his head: Novak'. Print Edition | Subscribe