The news that Andy Murray, the US Open champion, had been forced to withdraw from this year's French Open was greeted with dismay but ultimately understanding, as Murray explained his reasoning.
The British No.1, who will miss his first Grand Slam singles tournament since 2007 when he is absent from the Roland Garros field next week, revealed that it was not worth further damaging an existing back injury that he has been managing for some time in pursuit of success on his least-favoured surface.
"After consultation with his team and medical specialists, Andy has reluctantly withdrawn from the French Open and will instead focus on preparation for the grass court season," a statement read.
"It’s a really tough decision. I love playing in Paris but, after seeking medical advice, I am not fit to compete," Murray added.
"Apologies to the organisers and thanks to everyone for the messages of support. My complete focus now is getting back on court as soon as possible."
Murray has revealed that the injury, which came to public attention at the Rome Masters last week, is in the left side of his lower back, and is disc-related, and thus the extra rotation required on the slow clay surface to create your own pace caused his back the most problems. Grass, he said, is less uncomfortable.
With an Olympic gold medal and a Wimbledon final to build on, it is no surprise that grass too, remains a priority for the world No.3. Murray's coach, Ivan Lendl, himself skipped the French Open in 1990 in order to give him a better chance of claiming the elusive Wimbledon title.
Murray's injury, and those of the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro (respiratory illness), Brian Baker (knee) and Mardy Fish (heart problems), all of whom joined Murray in withdrawing from Paris, put in perspective the astonishing longevity of Roger Federer, who next week will be playing his 54th consecutive Grand Slam singles tournament. If he reaches the fourth round in Paris, Federer will have won the most matches at Roland Garros in Open era history, although Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, is just two matches behind Federer's count.
From 2015, players will benefit from an additional week's rest between the French Open and Wimbledon, which could help relieve the burden on players needing to manage their scheduling with injury prevention at the forefront.
"What you don't want to happen is to get injured in this phase right now - right before the French, leading into Wimbledon," Federer has commented. "It's part of the game, it's what we do, we play with pain very often. The only problem is if you play too long with something that hurts it's just not so much fun any more."
Murray meanwhile will focus on rehabilitation in London, with the aim to return to the match court at the Aegon Championships at Queen's, where has twice lifted the famously large trophy.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all