Sir Andy Murray
Andy Murray has had (and is still having) a glittering tennis career, with his crowning achievements being 3 Grand Slam titles, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, a year-end number one finish, and a leading role in a captivating British Davis Cup victory. All this while playing in the same era as Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. Despite the huge difference in the number of Grand Slams Murray has won compared to those 3 men, there’s a reason Murray was always seen as part of ‘The Big Four’. He consistently competed with and often beat the 3 greatest male players of all time over the course of nearly a decade. Murray is, undoubtedly, a hall of famer, and will be remembered as one of the best players of his generation.
Murray’s career is different now. He is no longer at the very top of men’s tennis. In fact, it is a minor miracle that Murray is still an active ATP player in the Top 100. Four years ago, before a First Round match against Roberto Bautista-Agut, Murray admitted that a long-term hip injury had become too much to bear and that the match against Bautista-Agut would probably be his last. Murray was then contacted by a specialist, who proposed a potential solution. His hip would be resurfaced with metal, freeing him of the pain and giving him the chance to, at the very least, mount a comeback in doubles. After a pain-free stint on the doubles court, Murray is a regular singles player again, but has not had too much success in big events. In the live ATP rankings, he currently sits at 63 and has struggled for form at times in the last year. However, if we’ve learnt just one thing from following Murray’s career over the years, it’s that you should never count him out.
Despite eventually succumbing to (ironically) Roberto Bautista-Agut in Round 3, Murray had a terrific Australian Open, playing in 3 compelling, high-quality matches where he played some of his best tennis in years. Murray began the week with a 5-set victory over Matteo Berrettini, who had come into Melbourne in great form. This victory constituted his first Top 20 win at a Grand Slam since 2017, at the French Open. In Round 2, Murray looked down and out against Thanasi Kokkinakis. He trailed by 2 sets to love and was 5-3 down in the third set. From nowhere, Murray found another gear, potentially sparked by a spellbinding break point early in that set where Murray rolled back the years with some unbelievable defensive skills. He came back to beat the Aussie in front of his home crowd in a match which last 5 hours and 45 minutes and finished just after 4am local time. By the time I had switched the tennis off, it was getting dark in the evening in the UK! Murray eventually succumbed in 4 sets in the third round, but you can hardly blame him, having spent 14 hours and 3 minutes on court in just 5 days, playing night matches on 2 occasions.
In the face of what Murray has achieved in his career, you may be wondering why a Round 3 exit would even be worth writing about. Let’s put it this way: At 35 years old, playing with a metal hip, against much younger (and in some cases higher ranked) opponents in a tournament that he’s highly unlikely to win, Murray showed an astounding level of grit, determination and physical and mental endurance to keep going and keep producing high quality tennis. Many top players gave up on tennis when they couldn’t stay at the very top of the game. Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras are great examples of this. Andy Murray will not follow that trend. It is clear that he relishes any opportunity to compete in big tournaments, and even early victories in such events mean just as much to him as some of his biggest wins from before his injury struggles. Having showed a promising level of tennis until fatigue got the better of him, things look promising for Murray, who is now targeting a strong showing at Wimbledon and the other Grand Slams this year.
Andy Murray summed up my thoughts well the day after his 3rd Round defeat on his Twitter page, writing: “2 days ago I randomly bumped into the doctor who in 2017 told me “the good news is the problem you have in your hip can be fixed but you won’t be able to play professional sport again.” I think we dispelled that myth the last 5 days. Goodnight”.