Tennis fans must be patient with Andy Murray as the 33-year-old looks to continue his comeback at the US Open, according to former British number one Tim Henman.
Murray recorded his first win over a top-10 player in more than three years when he beat world number one Alexander Zverev in the last 32 of the Western & Southern Open in New York on Monday.
The former world number one has lowered his own expectations after battling back to the court following two major hip surgeries.
The 2012 champion, though, will find himself very much in the spotlight again when grand slam action returns at Flushing Meadows on August 31.
Henman, who is part of Amazon Prime Video’s exclusive coverage of the US Open, feels two-time Wimbledon champion Murray can use the event as a marker for how far he has come on the road to recovery.
“I will never be that surprised by his form, because form is temporary, and class is permanent. Andy is always going to be a great tennis player – but given the physicality of the game right now, that was the element that I was most keen to see,” Henman told the PA news agency.
“Andy has been playing some fantastic tennis and, as ever, he has shown his competitive instincts.
“He will take a lot of confidence from it and we just have to keep our fingers crossed that he pulls up okay, and hopefully his body can recover.
“The amazing thing is, everybody is learning more about Andy – and that is not just the tennis fraternity, it is also the medical fraternity.
“What he is doing is unprecedented – no-one has come back with a steel hip at his age to…play at the highest level of the sport. In the context of new hips, what Andy is doing has never been done before.
“He has said it himself – if grand slams were just one set matches, there is no doubt he could win a grand slam. But they are not, they are best-of-five set matches and you have to play seven of them.
“That is the biggest challenge of his overall fitness and recovery. We all know, unfortunately, that doesn’t get any easier as you get older.
“We have got to be patient. The US Open will be just a second tournament in something like 10 months.
“If he could win one or two rounds, I think that would be an amazing achievement.
“But this is about him on a journey to try to build up the strength in tournament conditions to maybe be even more competitive at Wimbledon.”
Henman, 45, accepts things are now “very different” both on and off the court, with competitive action resuming behind closed doors after being halted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is strange,” he said. “There is some unbelievable tennis played with some amazing rallies, but then there is no (crowd) reaction at the end, so it is bizarre.
“But I think the thing which has shone through most is how pleased the players are to be back out there.
“It seems like they have hit the ground running and the level of tennis has been fantastic. I’m expecting no different at the US Open.”
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