Leon Smith feels criticism of the timing of Andy Murray’s withdrawal from the US Open is completely unfair.
The world number two tested out his problematic hip during a week of training at Flushing Meadows before announcing at his scheduled pre-tournament press conference on Saturday that he was not fit enough to compete.
Had Murray pulled out prior to Friday’s draw, Roger Federer would have become the number two seed and been placed in the opposite half to Rafael Nadal, opening the possibility of a final clash between the pair.
Instead, Federer and Nadal stay in the same half with fifth seed Marin Cilic taking over Murray’s slot in what is clearly a much weaker section.
Critics have claimed Murray would have known before Saturday that he would not be fit to play given he has been battling the hip problem for two and a half months.
Todd Woodbridge, one of the game’s greatest doubles players, was sympathetic to Murray’s situation but said he had “ruined” the draw.
Great Britain Davis Cup captain Smith cannot understand such thinking, telling Press Association Sport: ” If you look at Andy, how many times has he ever retired from matches? This guy has given everything to the sport, he’s always competed hard.
“If you look what happened at Wimbledon when he was clearly in pain, he still fought to the end, he didn’t turn round and shake hands.
“You’ve worked all your life to get to this point and give yourself a chance to play. Sport’s like that, you have to wait. Sometimes you think another 24 hours and you’ll get there.”
Murray made the decision after a final practice session with Lucas Pouille on Saturday, during which it was apparent he was still limping.
He had spent the six weeks since his quarter-final exit to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon doing everything possible to try to recover in time for Flushing Meadows.
Murray fought back tears as he made the announcement, and Smith, a close friend, said: ” He’s in the truest sense of the word a competitor.
“That’s why he works so hard is to get on the court, it’s not for the money or anything else, it’s playing tennis matches and figuring out opponents, fighting, and it’s a real shame that opportunity has been taken away at this tournament and maybe more weeks or months to follow.
“Just watching him in the press conference yesterday, when he sat down and he looked so emotional, you really felt for him.
“You know how much he would have done to manage his body to this point, painstaking rehab programmes which are challenging to follow, but it’s all worthwhile when you get to play.
“But when you do all that and then you don’t get to play, you can see why he’d be upset.”
Murray was planning to make a quick decision on what to do next after weighing up the advice he has been given by specialists and talking to his team.
As the problem has not settled down after several weeks away from the court, Murray will surely either have to take a significantly longer break or undergo surgery for the second time in four years.
The 30-year-old will certainly be reluctant to go under the knife at this stage in his career having taken more than a year to get back to his best after his back operation in 2013.
But Smith believes Murray can take confidence from the way he ultimately recovered from that to have the best season of his career last year as well as the form shown by Roger Federer this season after his own knee surgery and lengthy break.
“Every injury has its complications and you can go and see a number of different specialists and you might get quite varying responses in terms of next steps, best steps,” said Smith.
“Andy’s gone through something with his back before where he’s had to make a decision so I’m sure he’s taking stock now. He’s a very intelligent guy and it’s his career. I’m sure he’ll take on board all the pieces of advice he’s had and make a decision that’s best for him.
“I’m sure if he looks around at other players it gives you confidence but he has also gone through it with his back and I’m sure that was a difficult decision.
“Surgery is always the one you wait on to make sure you’ve got enough evidence that it’s going to make a positive difference, so he knows he can come through it again. He came out a better player so it’s definitely possible.”