Andy Murray will end season early to focus on fitness for Australian Open • Murray will rest after playing two tournaments in China • ‘I’ll be closer to my highest level’ says former world No 1 Last modified on Sat 22 Sep 2018 11.40 EDT Andy Murray has not played a match since losing to Fernando Verdasco at last month’s US Open.Photograph: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images In another twist to his stop-start comeback, Andy Murray says he will quit the ATP Tour for the rest of the season after playing two tournaments in China this fortnight. “I’m looking forward to playing in Shenzhen and Beijing,” Murray said. “After that, I’ve decided to end my season to give me the preparation time I need to get ready for a strong 2019.” This means he will not compete in the Shanghai Masters or Paris Masters, the last ATP 1000 events of the season. The former world No 1, who has won five of his nine matches since returning at Queen’s in June after nearly a year out injured, is testing the strength and mobility of his recovering hip in an ATP 250 tournament in Shenzen next week. Naomi Osaka's $8.5m Adidas deal shows being a female athlete can pay He has a relatively easy first-round match against the Chinese world No 341, Zhang Zhizhen, ahead of a likely meeting with David Goffin, followed by Fernando Verdasco and perhaps Cameron Norrie in the semi-finals. If he were to get that far, Murray would regard it as progress after his second-round loss to Verdasco at the US Open , his first slam since Wimbledon last year. In a diluted reprise of his disappointing 2017 season – when he left the Tour after losing in the Wimbledon quarter-finals – Murray is in a marginally better place heading towards the Australian Open , which is his new priority. He added: “We are going to focus on some intense reconditioning [and] training blocks in the next couple of months with a view to being in the best possible shape for Australia in January. The last few months have been positive and, with the extra work over the coming months, I’ll be closer to playing at my highest level again.” The hip surgery he reluctantly underwent in Melbourne on the eve of this year’s Australian Open looks to have been a success, although he still moves with a noticeable limp. His aerobic fitness appears sound, though, as he showed when he lost to Verdasco over four competitive sets at Flushing Meadows. He has a long way to go to return to the top of the Strength Training For Triathletes game from a world ranking of 308 but, with no points to defend, the opportunities for a quick rise are there.
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