An ability to remove oneself from emotional situations can be regarded as a key attribute for any doctor.
Yet I suspect Sarah Muirhead-Allwood allowed herself a smile on Sunday afternoon when Andy Murray completed a remarkable return to top-level tennis by winning the 46th ATP title of his career.
The surgeon, who carried out Murray’s hip-resurfacing operation in January, gave her high-profile client no assurances about him even being able to play professionally again, yet just nine months later the 32-year-old is back in the winners’ circle.
For Muirhead-Allwood, a doctor who has previously operated on members of the royal family, Murray’s success adds another impressive line to her CV.
Murray is the first tennis player to undergo such a procedure – one which saw metal added to both the ‘ball’ and ‘socket’ parts of his hip joint – and return to the game with such success.
His 46th title, achieved with typical grit and determination from a set down against Stan Wawrinka at the European Open in Antwerp, came more than two and a half years after number 45 – a nod to the lengthy injury misery Murray has been through since his triumph in Dubai in March 2017.
But finally talk of his injury problems, ones which caused him pain in everyday tasks such as tying his shoelaces and playing with his two young children, is becoming a thing of the past.
Great stuff from Andy Murray who has won his first ATP title in two years. 👏 pic.twitter.com/9w5MrdXa0S
— BetVictor (@BetVictor) October 20, 2019
Now talk is of the future – and it looks a prosperous one judged by what Murray produced both in Antwerp and the preceding weeks during the Asian swing. His famous defence was very much in evidence, while the serve has gradually gained pace, something which was notably lacking back in 2017 when, in Murray’s own words, he made the quarter-finals of Wimbledon “pretty much on one leg”.
Wawrinka, like Murray a three-time Grand Slam champion, was the second top-20 player to be beaten by the Scot in that period.
Greater challenges undoubtedly remain, and no-one can be sure how Murray’s body, dragged around the brutal ATP Tour for the past 15 years, will react to its new components in the longer term, but the signs are certainly good that Murray will be able to once again challenge for the biggest prizes in the game.
Already only Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are considered more likely in the betting to become Wimbledon champion next July; Murray is a shot with BetVictor.
And therein lies the reason why Murray should be confident of continuing on an upward trend – two-and-a-bit years after Murray limped away from that Wimbledon quarter-final towards the operating theatres, the same names remain at the top of his sport.
When Murray struggled through his loss to Sam Querrey at the All England Club in the summer of 2017, he topped the world rankings. Nadal, Federer and Djokovic filled the next three spots.
Back in the world’s top 130 after his Antwerp success, if Murray scans up the list he’ll see the top three berths occupied by Messrs Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.
“I don’t feel that the game has moved on,” Murray said in July. He has long been respected for his knowledge of the sport. When he says something like that, it is not bravado or some sort of mental mind game.
Youngsters are finally beginning to emerge. They are currently being led by US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev but the fact remains that the players still at the very top are the ones Murray has dealt with ever since his arrival on the tour.
The next big test for Murray will come when he does face one of his fellow Big Four members or indeed one of that younger chasing pack, one which also contains the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alex Zverev, both of whom have struggled this year to build on 2018’s achievements.
That may come as soon as next month when Murray is expected to be part of Great Britain’s team at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid. If not, perhaps it will be at the ATP Cup in January, another event which will see Murray represent his country. Opponents be warned – such events have brought out the best in Murray in the past.
They could therefore be ideal preparation for the opening Grand Slam of 2020, the Australian Open, an event to which Murray will return 12 months after appearing to announce his retirement.
It is also one at which Murray has contested the final on no fewer than five occasions. He is currently to win it.
Winning the European Open was good but that really would be a story.