Andy Murray: From stunning world number one rise to emotional injury fall
Cast your minds back to July 2016 and Andy Murray was on top of the world after a textbook performance earned a straight-sets win over Milos Raonic and a second Wimbledon title.
It set the wheels in motion for a gargantuan end to the year that saw the Briton surge to the top of the world rankings.
Yet, here we are just 18 months later and long-term doubts over Murray's future in tennis have reached fever pitch as a troublesome hip injury that curtailed his hopes of a Wimbledon defence has now led to his latest withdrawal at the Australian Open.
Here, we chronicle Murray's rise to the pinnacle of the game, and subsequent injury demise.
Murray: "Sadly I won't be playing in Melbourne this year, as I am not yet ready to compete. I'll be flying home shortly to assess all the options."-- #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 4, 2018
Good luck for the rest of '18, @andy_murray, you'll be missed! https://t.co/yzRIypFXM7
SURGE TO WORLD NUMBER ONE
There was a certain symmetry over the way Murray's ascent began with the decline in form of his great rival Novak Djokovic, who suffered a shock third-round exit at SW19 to Sam Querrey - thus ending his stranglehold on all four majors. Murray went on to claim a second Wimbledon title before defending his Olympic gold medal in Rio, adding to his list of achievements. As Djokovic continued to slide, Murray pounced by winning the China Open, Shanghai Masters, Vienna Open and Paris Masters - the last of which confirmed his position atop the rankings.
FINALS GLORY CEMENTS STATUS AS THE BEST
Having reached the pinnacle, the next challenge for Murray was to back up his stunning run. And the Briton did just that by triumphing at the ATP Finals for the first time in his career in November 2016. It confirmed Murray as the year-end number one and, more importantly, the impressive nature of his 6-3 6-4 victory over Djokovic marked him out as the new man to beat in men's tennis.
ARISE SIR ANDY BUT DECLINE BEGINS
Murray's sublime 2016 on the court and charitable work off it led to him receiving a knighthood in Great Britain, but his competitive season began with defeat in the Qatar Open final, with Djokovic gaining a measure of revenge. The Serbian's own woes continued at the Australian Open, though, and Murray was unable to pounce as Mischa Zverev earned an upset victory in round four in Melbourne. His only title of 2017 arrived in Dubai in March, but an inauspicious clay-court season followed - including early exits in Madrid and Rome - although that was softened by a run to the French Open semis.
WIMBLEDON WOE ENDS SEASON
One thing about Murray that is never in question is his passion and perseverance. But, even with his immense battling qualities the injury to his right hip that had already reared its ugly head proved too tough to deal with as Querrey earned another SW19 shock with a quarter-final win over the defending champion. Murray battled to return to fitness but withdrew two days before the US Open and did not play again in 2017.
FEDERER FUN, LENDL SPLIT AND MELBOURNE MISERY
There were hopes of better things to come in November when Murray took on Roger Federer in an exhibition match in Glasgow, during which the legendary Swiss entertained the masses by donning a kilt. Later that month, Murray announced he had split with coach Ivan Lendl - with whom he has won all of his grand slam titles - for a second time. As 2017 petered out, 2018 arrived and unfortunately it was a case of 'Groundhog Day' for Murray as his sore hip ended his hopes of playing the Brisbane International. And there was a sense of inevitability as Murray - now ranked 16th - confirmed he would not be fit enough to play the Australian Open, just two days after posting an emotional Instagram post about his love for tennis.
Hey everyone.. Just wanted to write a little message on here for anyone interested in what in going through right now. Firstly I want to apologise to @brisbanetennis for withdrawing at late notice and to everyone who wanted to come along to watch me play(or lose) The organisers couldn't have been more understanding and supportive and I'll always remember that. Thank you. I've obviously been going through a really difficult period with my hip for a long time and have sought council from a number of hip specialists. Having been recommended to treat my hip conservatively since the US Open I have done everything asked of me from a rehab perspective and worked extremely hard to try get back on the court competing. Having played practice sets here in Brisbane with some top players unfortunately this hasn't worked yet to get me to the level I would like so I have to reassess my options. Obviously continuing rehab is one option and giving my hip more time to recover. Surgery is also an option but the chances of a successful outcome are not as I high as I would like which has made this my secondary option and my hope has been to avoid that. However this is something I may have to consider but let's hope not. I choose this pic as the little kid inside me just wants to play tennis and Compete.. I genuinely miss it so much and i would give anything to be back out there. I didn't realise until these last few months just how much I love this game. Everytime I wake up from sleeping or napping i hope that it's better and it's quite demoralising when you get on the court it's not at the level you need it to be to compete at this level. In the short term I'm going to be staying in Australia for the next couple of days to see if my hip settles down a bit and will decide by the weekend whether to stay out here or fly home to assess what I do next. Sorry for the long post but I wanted to keep everyone in the loop and get this off my chest as it's really hurting inside. Hope to see you back on the court soon