Missing O2 date will hit Murray hard, says Bates

FORMER British No1 Jeremy Bates believes Andy Murray will be “gutted” not to play in front of home supporters for the first time since his Wimbledon triumph at next month’s ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena, after being forced to withdraw with a back injury.

Murray underwent surgery last month and yesterday confirmed his season was prematurely over as he continues to recuperate.

The world No3’s historic Wimbledon success this summer would have guaranteed him the adoration of supporters, which has not always been the case in east London.

During last year’s semi-final against 17-time grand slam winner Roger Federer the Swiss star was granted a warmer reception. And while Bates believes that was justified he feels there would have been no chance of a repeat this time.

“He would have loved it, and would have been given a hero’s welcome. But he has to make sure he gets this right because it’s obviously an ongoing problem and with the back you have to be very, very careful,” said Bates, a two-time mixed doubles grand slam champion.

“Maybe Roger Federer had a better reception when they played, but Federer is a seven-time Wimbledon champion and probably the most popular tennis player of all-time.

“Andy has moved on a heck of a long way since last year even in terms of the way the British public sees him. He would have been given an amazing reception and will be gutted not to be able to play.”

Murray’s focus now will be to get fit in time for the start of the Australian Open in January, where he has finished runner-up in three of the last four years.

And Bates expects the 26-year-old to make a full recovery and mount another strong title challenge.

“The back is such a core area of the body, that you have to be very careful with it,” Bates added. “But I think he will be back for the Australian Open, which is obviously what he has been targeting.

“I wouldn’t think it will take that long for him to feel completely right again. But once he does, he will be competing for slams again.”

Jeremy Bates will compete in the Statoil Masters Tennis with John McEnroe, Tim Henman, Pat Rafter, Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg at the Royal Albert Hall, 4-8 December. Hospitality packages are available from £179.

Call: 020 8233 5854 or email statoilmasters@imgworld.com. For more visit: www.statoilmasterstennis.com