In retrospect I suspect, like wimbledonwestie, that the break Andy had early this year was to try to manage the back issue. I honestly get the feeling Andy has struggled with it a lot this year, not only on the clay but on the hard courts and you have to wonder how much longer the situation could have gone on. I really do hope he can get himself right now and put the injury behind him. I still really feel that what he has achieved over the last 12 months or so is all the more remarkable because he's had the back injury. I'm still looking at that as a good omen for what he might do when he's right again.
I know it sounds like something you say, but I was honestly under the impression that was why Andy had that big gap between AO and Indian Wells. He'd maybe not been entirely specific about it, but he talked several times about how he was hoping to manage his year better, and be sufficiently rested to stay fresh and injury free through the clay season. I'm sure that was part of the debate when we were discussing whether or not he was throwing away ranking points by not playing anything.
Some of it was explained in vague terms, like him not wanting to tire himself out with travelling across the Atlantic, but that always felt like a side issue. He kept mentioning how important it was to find balance and not to over-train or over-play and risk injury or illness. He'd often talk about how it was something all players had to do, and that is true. However, he was the one with a big gap in his schedule when he could have been picking up fairly easy ranking points, and pay-cheques.
We'll just have to wait and see how long it takes for Andy to return to form. Hopefully he'll be sufficiently progressed in his rehab that he'll be able to play fairly competitively in the exhos, so he won't be too rusty. There's no getting away from the fact that for any serious athlete, just a couple of weeks away from training will dent their fitness, and a slow return to training will mean he's got a lot of ground to make up, and it could take a while. That seemed to be one of the reasons Rafa delayed his return until after the Australian Open. His knee had apparently been sufficiently healed, but some kind of virus pushed back his cardio fitness, so he wanted to get that back before playing competitively again, and to avoid having to play best of five.
Most people, including Rafa haters, expected him to take a while to get full fitness, so this isn't a new invention for Andy. It's also worth considering that Rafa's injury didn't prevent him from doing any exercise. He just needed to rest his knee, but he was still able to go swimming and do other sports that maintained his general fitness level, but gave his knee a rest.
I am hopeful, because Andy is young, has great support and is very eager. However, if he has a slow start in Oz, I won't see it as a disaster. Even Andy is unlikely to be sure of how well he will play until he gets there, and no matter what he's feeling, he'll probably say "I'm feeling really good, really fresh", as he often does, even when he knows he might struggle, lol.