THE phrase ‘pre-match injury doubt’ is an easy shorthand for any self-respecting sports journalist. Catch-all terminology used to denote a player whose participation in an upcoming fixture is rated uncertain for some reason or another, this can refer equally to the recipient of a boot on the ankle a week previously or someone who sustained a broken leg in training.

Sometimes managers are in on the act, too. Often, in order to deceive opposition bosses, details can be kept deliberately vague. Jonny Hayes of Aberdeen wasn’t completely ruled out of an away Europa League tie against Maribor back in 2016, for instance, even when it emerged he had damaged a hamstring the day before and hadn’t even got on the plane.

Other times, though, the phrase is right on the money. Because there are plenty of cases where neither managers nor players themselves have the foggiest idea how a particular muscle or joint might respond to treatment as the hours tick down to a vitally important match.

The case par excellence is perhaps the strange goings on around Brazil’s Ronaldo and the 1998 World Cup final, where the first draft of team lines showed the Inter Milan striker absent as he had suffered a ‘convulsion’ on the morning of the game. Tests were conducted, Ronaldo was given all the clear, and the team lines re-printed with him in them, even if the striker could only produce a pallid performance on the day.

In the old-world ethos of the NFL, typically there are rules to govern this sort of thing. Across the pond, a standardised injury report appears in the days and hours before the game and insists upon rating players carrying knocks in various categories.

Firstly, a detailed report of three practice sessions each week emerges, in which players either ‘Did Not Participate’, or took part in ‘Full’ or ‘Limited Participation’ is released. Then comes a pre-match Game Status Report. Originally stating whether players were ‘out’, ‘questionable’, ‘probable’ or ‘doubtful’, now players can only be ‘out’, ‘doubtful’ or ‘questionable’. Semantics or not, wily coaches such as Bill Belichick of New England Patriots haven’t been slow to the potential this offers to seek any advantage going. Their quarter back Tom Brady was listed on the Patriots’ injury report for three straight years, a period where he played 127 straight games.

If it is understandable if certain teams and players are wary of full declaration, perhaps this applies even more when you come to the world of individual sports. Essentially, admitting to some pre-match injury or other is directly flagging up a weakness to your opponent. If they are doing their job correctly, they will exploit it to the full.

If anyone is redefining the use of the phrase ‘injury doubt’ in the summer of 2018, though, it is Andy Murray. The Scot has had his followers on tenterhooks, skipping participation in a grass court tournament in Rosmalen, in the Netherlands, and deciding against taking up a wild card at the 11th hour for low key LTA Challenger Tour events in both Glasgow and Loughborugh. He left it until the last second too until deciding to make his comeback after 11 months rehabbing a serious hip problem at the Fever-Tree Championship at Queen’s Club on Tuesday.

While he ultimately went down narrowly to Nick Kyrgios of Australia, the good news for the tennis world was the fact he moved well on court and struck the ball with a precision which belied the fact it had been almost a year since we saw him last. It was a reminder that, however much medical support and assistance you have at your disposal, at some point it is only the sportsperson himself who must take the leap of faith and see how the injury will respond. It must have been a bit like how Craig Gordon felt, when having had almost two years out of football, he hit his first goal kick.

So what now about Wimbledon? Well, for all the encouragement, Murray remains wary of ruling anything out, even the possibility of playing a warm-up event at Eastbourne but skipping SW19. There is simply no such thing as a sure thing when dealing with long-term injuries such as this. The Scot’s army of supporters should just be delighted that their man’s injury designation is no longer simply ‘out’. He is now just, unashamedly, a good old fashioned ‘injury doubt’.