Andy Murray to make singles return in Cincinnati at Western & Southern Open

Andy Murray will play the Cincinnati Masters next week
Andy Murray won the Cincinnati singles titles in 2008 and 2011

Andy Murray will make a return to singles action at the Cincinnati Masters next week - seven months after fearing he might have to retire.

Britain's former world number one has been playing doubles since June as he regains fitness after hip surgery.

Murray, 32, broke down in tears at the Australian Open in January, believing the resurfacing operation he had later that month could end his career.

Now the Scot is pain-free and feels the time is right to return to singles.

Murray has been given a wildcard and plays France's Richard Gasquet in the first round.

If Murray beats 33-year-old Gasquet, who is ranked 66th in the world after missing the first four months of the season with a groin injury, he will play Austrian world number four Dominic Thiem in the second round.

Murray's last singles match was a five-set loss to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round in Melbourne.

Andy Murray will return to singles at the Cincinnati Masters
Murray announced he has accepted a wildcard for the Western & Southern Open on his Facebook page

Before the match the three-time Grand Slam champion said he planned to retire after this year's Wimbledon and feared the Australian Open could be the final tournament of his career.

But he returned to the doubles court in June after a career-saving operation with renowned hip surgeon Sarah Muirhead-Allwood, whose previous patients have included the Queen Mother.

Murray said the resurfacing of his hip, where the femur head is smoothed down and covered with a metal cap, was "life-changing" and took away the pain which dogged him for a number of years.

He has played five doubles tournaments since his return to competitive action, winning Queen's alongside Spain's Feliciano Lopez in a dream comeback.

Speaking after his quarter-final match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Friday, world number two Rafael Nadal said Murray's return was "good news for the sport".

"Especially great news for him. That means that he's healthy," he added.

Joining Murray in a star-studded draw at the Masters 1,000 event in Cincinnati are Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Serbia's world number one Djokovic and Swiss great Federer return to action for the first time since their historic Wimbledon final, while Nadal will be back in action for the second week running after starting his North American hard-court campaign at this week's Rogers Cup.

Analysis

Jonathan Jurejko, BBC Sport

At Wimbledon, Murray began to get fed up with answering questions about when he would return to the singles court - insisting he did not know himself when his new metal hip would be ready to cope with the added workload.

Patience has been Murray's mantra since his competitive return in the doubles, refusing to commit to a singles event - and therefore not putting himself under the pressure of a timeframe - until he felt completely comfortable.

Hitting the weights in the gym to build up his strength was the focus post-Wimbledon before he headed over to the North American hard courts with a dual purpose: improve match sharpness by playing doubles in Washington and Montreal, and upping the workload on the singles court in public practice sessions.

Those solo outings, he says with a smile, did not leave him "completely embarrassed" as they might have done earlier in his comeback bid.

So, after further practices in Cincinnati with fellow Britons Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans this week, he is confident a return now will not be a mistake as he looks to prolong a glittering career which he felt might have already been over.

The next question is: will he play singles at the US Open? Murray has consistently said he would not want his first tournament back to be over five sets in New York. Playing over three in Cincinnati appears to leave the door ajar for a potential follow-up appearance at Flushing Meadows.

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