IT would be easy to wonder why Andy Murray is still putting quite such an effort into regaining his place in the upper echelons of tennis.
Almost four years of injuries, some of which have required surgery, have seen Murray play just 10 matches in more than eighteen months and drop outside of the world’s top 100, which is a far cry from the heights he has previously hit.
After all, the Dunblane man has done almost everything there is to do in his sport; two Wimbledon titles, a US Open crown, two Olympic golds, a Davis Cup win and 41 weeks at world number one is more than most could ever dream of.
Coupled with having multi-millions of pounds in the bank, as well as a young family, it’s not difficult to see why many are somewhat confused as to why he is putting his body through hell in an attempt to return to the highest level.
However, according to someone who knows him better than almost anyone, the answer is simple.
His mother, Judy, has been by her son’s side as he progressed through the junior ranks and into the tennis record books and she is clear as to why he is continuing his comeback attempts.
“There’s unfinished business there, you know he’s not ready to quit just yet,” says Murray.
“He still loves playing, he just needs his body to give him a bit of a break now.”
Certainly, Andy has been well and truly tested by the injury troubles he has been forced to face in recent times.
During the French Open in 2017, Murray sustained a hip injury that has proved the bane of his life ever since.
He played through the injury, but was finally forced to step away from the tour and eventually undergo surgery which, although successful, has never allowed him to return to the fitness levels that previously saw him go toe-to-toe with the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal in matches lasting three, four or even five hours.
Each comeback in the intervening four years has been swiftly halted by another niggle or fitness concern but with Wimbledon now only days away, Murray is looking forward to appearing at the All England Club for the first time in four years.
And although it might be a touch optimistic to hope the 34-year-old can replicate his previous Wimbledon wins in 2013 and 2016, Murray retains the belief her son can return to fighting for trophies before he hangs up his racket for good.
“I know injuries are part and parcel of sport but it’s been very difficult watching Andy trying so hard to find the right rehab or surgery or whatever it is. He’ll then test it out and then get another niggle and so it’s back to the drawing board.
“He’s a competitor first and foremost, he loves the battle of individual competition so not being able to compete on a regular basis for such a long time has been incredibly difficult for him and it’s tough to watch,” she says.
“When he got that hip injury in 2017, he was world number one and playing the best tennis of his life so it was incredibly cruel timing.
“He’s not lost his passion and he’s not lost his love for the game or his desire to get back and everyone knows what he’s like, he’ll exhaust every avenue before he’s finished.
“Look at Federer and Serena, they’re 39, Andy is “only” 34.
“His tennis will be good enough, it’s just whether his body will allow him to get back.
“Tennis is incredibly gruelling and you have to be at absolute peak fitness to do well because the levels are so high these days.
“But I wouldn’t put anything past him, I really wouldn’t.”
Britain’s most successful player ever may well have been in the headlines less than usual in recent months but tennis has provided no shortage of stories this year.
Earlier this month, women’s world number two, Naomi Osaka, sparked a heated debate when she announced she would be opting out of press conferences at the French Open in an attempt to protect her mental health.
The responses to her move were varied; some furiously disputed her choice not to fulfill her media obligations, claiming it was damaging to the sport while others were in full support of the four-time grand slam champion’s stance, agreeing that if doing press was damaging to her mental health, she had every right to remove herself from that situation.
Murray is in no doubt as to what camp she is in, particularly having seen first-hand what the consequences of a misplaced or misunderstood comment at a press conference can be.
Andy, while still a teenager, famously answered “anyone but England” when he was asked who he would be supporting at the 2006 World Cup and the backlash he received was fierce.
And so Murray is hugely sympathetic to Osaka’s stance.
“This is a very interesting one – I saw it with Andy and Jamie, you get thrust into the spotlight at a very young age and you’re completely unprepared for it,” she says.
“You get asked a question and answer it honestly and then you find it’s taken out of context or somebody jumps on it and makes a big deal out of it and you think wow, how did that happen?
“You can see why some players are very anxious about speaking to the media and why some of them become very robotic with their answers because they’re protecting themselves.”
Murray has seen Andy in particular, experience times in his career when he has been one of the most in-demand sportspeople in the country and while some athletes are happy, or keen even, to undertake extensive media commitments, there are others who are far less comfortable and so Murray believes a more individual, and sometimes protective, approach would be beneficial.
“I think this has also raised an issue about the number of press conferences tennis players do. They have an obligation to do a press conference whether they win or lose after every match. I really don’t think they should have to do that much.
“If you look at the year Andy became world number one in 2016, he did over a hundred press conferences in a year, that’s far too much. Nobody gets that sort of access to athletes in any other sport,” Murray says.
“There are some journalists who provoke, who want tears or anger or a reaction. “There are definitely some who will try to get you to comment on things that are inflammatory to make a headline.”
Murray may have spent much less of the past year on a tennis court than she normally does but she has not been spending any less energy on developing and promoting tennis.
Her latest venture is a resource available through Education Scotland which aims to get more kids involved in tennis as well as provide ideas for games and exercises to develop their skills.
Murray has spent almost all of her adult life attempting to widen the opportunities for people to play tennis and having developed a singles and doubles world number one, as well as a number of other world class players, clearly knows what she is talking about.
However, having spent a decade trying to ensure the legacy of her sons is not wasted, as a result of a lack of support from public bodies, she is still being forced to ask the question “where is the next Andy and Jamie Murray coming from?”
The lack of progress in the country developing a robust system to discover and nurture tennis talent is, she admits, a huge source of irritation.
“It does frustrate me that I’m still fighting this battle. I’d have hoped we were much further down the line than we are,” she says.
“Recently, the National under-16 Junior Championships were on but there wasn’t a single Scottish girl in it – I was very disappointed by that but it also made me angry. How, in a country that has produced world number ones, has that happened?”
While Murray admits she is unlikely to ever walk away entirely, she does feel like the time is coming for her to step away from the front line somewhat.
And before that happens, she would love more than anything to see a system in place that would continue her efforts to grow the game which would, in turn, increase the chances of Scotland developing another Wimbledon champion.
“You need a succession plan, there’s no point me taking it with me. It means the world to me to be able to pass it on to other Scottish parents and kids who might provide another role model,” she says.
“I feel like this is my bit. I’m a granny now and the time is coming for the next generation to have a turn.
“Ideally, I’d have dozens of pied pipers around the country doing this and I’d now be at home with a glass of wine.
“Andy and Jamie won’t play for so much longer so now, I feel like ok, that’s it, I’ve given you all my content and my ideas now.”