December 28, 2017 / 8:59 AM / 10 months ago

Tennis: Fitness comes first for returning Murray, Djokovic

(Reuters) - Former world number ones Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are relishing their return to competition after serious injuries cut their last campaigns short, but the overriding aim for both players in the New Year is to stay fit and healthy.

Tennis - ATP World Tour - Aegon International - Eastbourne, Britain - July 1, 2017 Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning the final against France's Gael Monfils Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

Murray, who has struggled with a persistent hip injury since the Briton’s quarter-final exit at Wimbledon in July, pulled out of the U.S. Open and dropped to 16th in the world rankings.

The 30-year-old is scheduled to participate in the Brisbane International which starts on Dec. 31 as he gears up for the Australian Open, but a season blighted by injury has changed the double Wimbledon champion’s outlook.

“When I was fit and healthy last year (2016), you think about winning all the major events, getting to number one and winning every competition that you are in and that is what drives you,” Murray told Sky Sports.

“When you miss four or five months and there has been a bit of uncertainty about my hip (that changes). The goals change and I remember now how much I loved playing tennis — it isn’t about winning every match I play in the future or winning more slams.

“I want to get back to playing tennis, I want to be fit and healthy and that is what is driving me just now... I was pretty unhealthy for most of this year and I am getting there but it is a slow process.”

Djokovic suffered a year-long dip in form before an elbow injury forced him to retire in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. The Serb has not played competitively since and underwent surgery.

“It’s been a real roller-coaster ride for me for a year and a half with this issue,” world number 12 Djokovic told Sport360 in an interview ahead of his return at the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

“I’ve never had surgery in my life, I’ve never had any major injuries that kept me away from the tour for such a long time... I’ve learned a lesson because I really want to avoid getting to that stage of an injury ever in my career after this.

“I can’t wait to get back on the competition level but it was a great experience for me to have. And it was a somewhat necessary experience because I got maybe too comfortable with not having major injuries.”

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien

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