WITH Rafael Nadal having won his 16th Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows at the weekend, the question for Andy Murray is not whether he will catch the Spaniard in terms of slams, but if he can catch his own brother.

For Jamie Murray now has five Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles, and though his wee brother can point to two Olympic gold medals as well his three Slams, the question has to be asked whether Sir Andy will be able to equal Jamie’s Slam record.

I have no doubt in acclaiming Andy Murray as the greatest individual sportsman that Scotland has ever produced, and it is extremely sad to see him out of the sport for a prolonged period. The hip injury that he has sustained can really only be cured by either sufficient long-term rest or an operation that might not work.

Murray has taken the sensible option to absent himself from the daily grind of top-class tennis to give his body the chance to heal. It might, emphasise might, prolong his career, just as Roger Federer and Nadal himself have done by taking time out to recuperate.

There is the possibility, however, that Murray’s career may have ground to a permanent halt and that we may never again see him grace Wimbledon or any of the other top courts around the world.

I hope and pray that is not the case but we do have to consider the possibility that we saw Murray peak in 2016. I would be an absolute tragedy if he was to carry on, limping from injury to injury.

There is no doubt he is getting the best care possible to give him the chance to do so, in which case he could well play on for another three or four years. At 30, he has already intimated that his years of playing at the top level are running out. When he does eventually stop he will do so knowing that he is the best tennis player this country has ever produced by some distance.

The question he has no doubt put to himself is what does he do after he finishes playing? He already has a hotel and perhaps will look to a career in business, but I hope he does continue in tennis in some form or another, perhaps as a coach if he chooses to follow in his mother’s footsteps.

If so then it is possible that he will do so at the new tennis academy Judy Murray has planned for Dunblane. It has been a controversial project from the start, but I think the Scottish government’s decision to give it the go-ahead was the right one.

First point – anyone saying that the approval was rigged by Nicola Sturgeon for her ‘pal’ Judy Murray knows absolutely nothing about either of the women or Scottish politics. Do you seriously think the First Minister would risk her Government and her career to do a favour for a chum? It is risible to suggest that Nicola or Judy would take that risk.

I am well aware that in the face of strong local opposition, Stirling Council did not approve the development which flies in the face of local planning policies. But the minister responsible, Kevin Stewart, made it clear that he was approving the plan on the basis that it was a national necessity.

What has concerned most of the objectors is that the hotel and housing that goes along with the Academy was a clear breach of the green belt area around Dunblane. The problem is that without that enabling development, as it is known in the building industry, the academy could not be afforded.

It is the same situation for the new film studio planned for Straiton in Midlothian, which drives an even bigger hole through the green belt south of Edinburgh.

No one is going to hand Scotland a tennis academy or film studio for free. There has to be something which enables the money to accrue for the building of such facilities, and in Dunblane it is a hotel and housing whereas at Straiton it appears to be retail facilities in the main. The principle is the same – no enabling development and no facility.

I do have sympathy with the objectors at Dunblane because green belt land should always be kept intact as long as there are brownfield sites around, but there is no suitable brownfield site near Dunblane.

I happen to know that Judy Murray looked at several other sites, particularly in East Dunbartonshire, before finally going with Keir Park as the only viable location. Nevertheless, now that the minister has decided to approve the project, it is up to Stirling Council to dot the Is and cross the Ts and one way in which they will definitely combat the fear that this is a Trojan Horse development designed to blow apart the green belt for housing will be the introduction – ordered by Kevin Stewart – of what used to be called a section 75 agreement ordering that the tennis facilities be constructed first and also limiting any housing to that number on the application.

That may go some way to alleviating the fears of the people living around the site.

Personally I think it will be a marvellous facility for Scotland and will ensure that our talented youngsters get the best possible start, not least because of the formidable woman whose legacy has been not just two marvellous champions who are been such a credit to Scotland, but many other players that she has helped along the way – we need to see more of them from the new academy and I’m certain it will happen.