It is in some ways a cruel irony that, having shed one monkey off his back by winning Wimbledon this summer, Andy Murray has been forced to miss the end of a successful season in order to deal with another, less metaphorical one. A little less than seven weeks ago, Murray had surgery to deal with a chronic lower-back problem and has yet to return to the court, but the British No. 1 was on relaxed form last week, appearing at Queen’s Club to launch HEAD’s new racquet series, the HEAD Graphene Radical.
Graphene, an extremely lightweight nanomaterial, allows for an optimal redistribution of weight to the grip and tip of the racquet, which in turn generates more kinetic energy. I asked Ottmar Barbian, HEAD’s VP and Division Manager for Racquet Sports, for the layman’s version of what that means: “The racquet is lighter. You can swing it faster and if you swing it faster, you can generate more power … Less effort and more power.”
Murray, who has been testing the racquet since Wimbledon, confirmed that when he returns to the court he will be using the HEAD Graphene Radical Pro. I sat down with Murray, in between photo shoots and video interviews, to ask him about his new racquet, his recovery from injury, and his plans for returning to competition. In some ways, he told me, having a clean break from the game—albeit an enforced one—makes changing racquets easier.
“When you’ve been playing a lot, you feel the slightest changes in a ball or court speed or racquet or grip or whatever it is, but when you haven’t been playing for six weeks, your arm almost feels numb,” Murray said. “No matter what you’re playing with, it would feel weird anyway.”
So he won’t, on his return, be blaming his racquet—in which he’s “only found positive things”—but the timing of that return is still uncertain. He planned to hit some balls—”very few and very light”—this week and is heading to Miami on Monday for his customary training block, although its intensity will depend on how those first few tentative hits go. He is still nominally committed to the Dream Cup exhibition in Barbados at the end of November, but he’s insistent that he won’t return until he’s ready to compete at full speed. In the meantime, he’s doing weights, Pilates, and running in water on “basically an underwater treadmill”, which sounds like a rarefied form of torture but apparently spares the back and joints.
“Not being able to hit the balls, though—it’s starting to get to the stage where I want to be able to do that again and I’ve started to miss it,” Murray said.