A shoulder injury, illness and a bruised knee made for a “tricky” pre-season for Andy Murray, who accepts it could prove to be the final one of his career.
By his own admission, the 36-year-old did not enjoy much of last season and won just two matches in his final five events of the year.
Murray’s 20th season on the ATP Tour will begin on New Year’s Day with a match against second seed Grigor Dimitrov at the Brisbane International.
“If I was in a situation like I was at the end of last year, then I probably wouldn’t go again,” Murray told BBC Sport.
“But then if physically I’m doing well and my results are good and I’m playing well, then that’s enjoyable and I could see myself still playing.
“We’ll see how the year goes, see how the body holds up. If things are going well, I’d love to keep going. But if they’re not, and I’m not enjoying it, it could be the last year, yes.”
Murray flew to Australia on Boxing Day, after a large family gathering on Christmas Day which included his brother Jamie and his mother Judy.
With four young children, it is no surprise the first wake-up call came at 3.30am but it did not spoil his Christmas lunch, which mixed turkey with the leftover sushi the family had ordered on Christmas Eve.
Since arriving in Brisbane, Murray has been able to play practice sets with some of the best players in the world, but was not able to play a tie-break with Rafael Nadal as their court time ran out at 6-6 on Saturday afternoon.
The Scot practised with Jack Draper before leaving the UK and says he also made the most of the presence of a number of top players during warm weather training in Dubai.
But as he tries to rediscover the form that took him close to a Wimbledon seeding in the summer, there were a few too many problems for his liking.
“I had the shoulder injury before Davis Cup [in November] so I wasn’t able to serve for a few weeks, and then there’s obviously a gradual build-up to being able to serve full out,” he explained.
“And also I got quite sick literally just as I was leaving to go to Dubai, so that made things a bit tricky – and I had a bruised meniscus in my knee which also restricted me from doing certain things.
“I was able to still practise and do lots of training but it’s just there was certain stuff I wasn’t able to do – like playing points and full-out sprinting and changes of direction.
“So it’s not been that straightforward but the last 10 days or so I’ve managed to get more of that in. There are signs in practice that my level is good enough.”
Murray’s frustration at the way he played in the closing months of 2023 boiled over in Paris in October, as he smashed his racquet after failing to convert match points and a 5-2 third-set lead over Alex de Minaur for the second time in little more than a month.
“When you have played right at the highest level, it’s not that easy when you are going through periods where you are losing in first rounds, and maybe losing matches that you probably should have won,” he said.
“Part of that is psychological, but part of it is also where my game was at as well.
“I served particularly poorly in the latter part of the season and getting cheap points on my serve has been over my career a big part of my game. I’m hoping some of the improvements I made in the off-season will help me in those situations and obviously mentally I need to do a better job as well.
“But then, at the same time, a couple of years ago if someone had offered me that I’d been playing at top-40 level in the world when I had been struggling with my hip, I would have been happy with that.
“But it is hard, mentally, so I need to do a better job of putting things in perspective this year and be a little bit easier on myself.”