Whatever agonies Andy Murray has been through on his long road back to grand-slam tennis, Monday’s first-round opponent James Duckworth can surely match them with his own horrible history.
Duckworth – a 26-year-old Australian from Sydney’s north shore – is ranked a lowly No. 445 after missing long stretches of both this season and last.
A philosophical character, he says that he is still working his way back to full power after undergoing five different operations over the last 18 months.
“I’ve been on a pretty rough journey with five surgeries - three on my foot, one on my shoulder and one on my elbow - since the start of 2017,” explained Duckworth.
“Andy has only had one surgery [actually three if you include the back operation of 2013, and the groin repair at the end of last season] but we both have a bit of an understanding of what it’s like to be out of the game for an extended period, and we’re trying to get back and getting used to playing matches day in, day out.
“There were times I feared I wouldn’t play again. I couldn’t run, jump or hop which makes it tough.
It was only really when I had my last operation [in Feb] that I could run around the court to warm-up.
You don’t really appreciate those sort of things until they’re gone.
James Duckworth has had his own history of injury
“My best chance against Andy would have been at Queen’s in his first week back but he hasn’t played a best-of-five set match for a long time so I guess this is as good a time as any.
It’s a tough challenge but I’m looking forward to it. I’ve definitely got a better chance now than when he was at his peak, but it will still be an uphill battle.”
Murray is the strong favourite but Virginia Wade, who won the first professional US Open at Forest Hills 50 years ago, urged patience.
“I watched his matches in Washington, he looks really lame still," said the former British No. 1. "I think he’s still a work in progress, he has to look at himself like that.
He took a long time off, and it takes you a really long time to come back. But he’s too good a player not to, he has got too many more aspects to his game than a lot of other players.”