A Bittersweet Week for Tennis Fans

Although I hadn’t planned to write until after the Australian Open, the news this week which sent shockwaves reverberating throughout the tennis world compelled me to get my laptop out and start typing.

In case you didn’t hear the exact nature of this news, Andy Murray, possibly the greatest tennis player ever to be produced by our island nation, is retiring. It is well known that the Briton has been struggling with a hip injury for some time, but just how much pain it has been giving him came as a shock to us all. Last month, as Murray began the preparations for his 2019 season in Florida, he realised he simply couldn’t go on anymore. Murray explained that although he still loved tennis, the amount of pain his hip was causing him was decreasing his quality of life, and that it was time to hang up his racket.

We still don’t know exactly when Murray will stop playing. His goal is to end his career at Wimbledon, but he has stated that the Australian Open could be his last tournament. However, what we do know, is that whenever Murray finishes, he should be immensely proud of what he has achieved. Not everyone who plays tennis can expect to win 45 ATP titles, including 3 Grand Slams and a Davis Cup, not to mention the 2 Olympic Gold medals, an Olympic Silver medal and a 7-month stint as world number one. I could go on for ageslisting Murray’s accolades as a tennis player, but the remarkable thing is the context surrounding what has been achieved by Murray. No British man had won a Grand Slam since Fred Perry’s US Open title in 1936, and no Briton had won Wimbledon since Fred Perry’s Wimbledon title in the same year.

All this meant that there would be pressure on any British man whose tennis skills grabbed the eye. That pressure increased when Murray broke the top 20. It increased again when he broke the top 10. And once again when he broke the top 5. The level of expectation became simply enormous when he made his first Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows in 2008.Everyone wondered when he would go on and win a slam. It was taken as a question of when not if. What people failed to understand, was that in an era containing players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, winning a Grand Slam is not easy.

So, when Murray did the impossible and finally won his first Grand Slam title, in his fifth final, you would have expected that pressure to have lifted. However, if anything, it increased. If he’s won a US Open, why not Wimbledon, people asked? So, when the 2013 Wimbledon Championships began, the only thought in the heads of the spectators was how far Murray could go. And when he went 2 sets to love down against his long-time rival Fernando Verdasco, it looked as though the Wimbledon title would never come. But Murray refused to be beaten. He rattled off the next 3 sets to beat Verdasco, swept aside his semi-final opponent Jerzy Janowicz and then after an agonising last game in which he squandered several match point chances, Murray did it. He beat Novak Djokovic in straight sets tobecome the first British male to win Wimbledon in 77 years. Elation ensued as Murray collapsed to the floor and cried tears of joy and relief. The pressure was off.

Murray then went on to win another Olympic Gold, another Wimbledon, a Davis Cup and would finish 2016 as the Year End world number one after winning the World Tour Finals. Although Murray’s fall down the pecking order that followed was saddening, his achievements have had far more of an impact than he could have ever imagined. Murray showed the world that British tennis was not a joke. He has provided a role model for thousands of young tennis players, something which has shown in the state of British tennis now. Kyle Edmund, under Murray’s mentorship has reached a career high ranking of 14, after winning his first ATP title and reaching the Australian Open semi-finals in 2018. As well as that, Cameron Norrie made his first ATP final this week and pushed his ATP ranking up to 68.

So why is this a bittersweet week? Although we are on the cusp of losing one of the most inspirational sporting icons of our generation, what Murray has achieved has paved the way for other British players to achieve the same level of success. And as Norrie and Edmund are showing us, the glory days of British tennis are far from over.

Written by Emre Saridogan