With the start of the Australian Open looming large last week, anticipation was once again rife for the outing of Sir Andy Murray in a practice match against Novak Djokovic, largely to see whether the Brit had finally begun to shake the hip injury that has plagued him over the last few years. It was not a good afternoon for Murray or for his army of fans back in Britain, as he won just two games in, losing 6-1 4-1 when the match was ended prematurely due to Murray’s strained movement, a common issue following a major hip operation a year ago.
In the press conference previewing his first-round match with 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut, Murray delivered an emotional and not entirely unexpected announcement – that this season will be his last, barring a medical miracle.
Murray said in his press conference that his intention is to make it to this summer’s Wimbledon Championships to say goodbye at the All England Club, a fitting location for a British sporting icon to bow out, but even that is uncertain, with the Brit adding that “I’m not sure I can play through the pain for another four or five months.”
But what has the impact of Sir Andy Murray’s career been?
Perhaps one of the most remarkable details about Murray’s career is that it could have been over before it had even begun, with Andy and his brother and fellow professional tennis player, Jamie Murray both surviving the horrifying school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland on March 13 1996. Murray had been walking to the gymnasium where the atrocity took place, and had he started his journey moments earlier, his career may never have been possible. From it, he took a steely sense of determination that has characterised him throughout his playing time, and still does today.
The key achievements of his tennis career are two Wimbledon titles, one US Open crown, one Davis Cup triumph, two Olympic singles gold medals and one Olympic doubles silver medal. Off the court, Murray holds the honour of being the only person in history to be voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year three times.
In an era with freakish titans of the sport such as Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, all of whom will go down in the history of the sport, where winning a Grand Slam was seen to be nigh on impossible for players outside of that ‘holy trinity’, Andy Murray won three and topped the world rankings – a monumental feat for a British tennis player.
Ending the British crowd’s 77-year wait for another home winner at Wimbledon is certainly what Murray will be remembered for when he definitively says goodbye to the court, his love affair with the tournament sparking an attraction toward British tennis that had not been seen in living memory, Tim Henman’s semi-final exploits in six Grand Slam tournaments being the best that British tennis fans had been offered for a number of years.
Murray’s British peers have acknowledged the monumental weight of Sir Andy’s influence on the sport in Britain, British women’s number one Johanna Konta responded to Murray’s retirement press conference by saying that “thinking fundamentally about our sport without him, particularly at home, it’s almost a little bit unimaginable.”
BBC tennis presenter and former player Sue Barker reacted with sadness to the news, relating to Murray’s situation better than most, after her own career was ended prematurely through injury, saying she was “absolutely devastated” by the news.
However, despite the initial outpouring of sadness and regret from Murray, it is looking ever so slightly possible that he is going to fight on and make a comeback against all the odds. Following his spirited five-set defeat to Agut in the Australian Open first round, Murray told the Melbourne crowd “if this was my last match, it was an amazing way to end… I gave it everything”, which all remaining spectators cheered. Perhaps it is the public outcry of support that has given him new life to fight on, as he went on to add “maybe I’ll see you again… I’ll give everything possible to try.”
In the last few days, Murray pulled out of the Open 13 Province in Marseille, officials for which stated that the Brit would “undergo further surgery”, that was also alluded to in Murray’s post-match interview in Melbourne, which his team have denied.
Whatever happens next, Sir Andy Murray has booked his place in the tennis hall of fame, and a place in the hearts of British sporting fans up and down the country. Personally, I will never forget the summers of 2012 and 2013 that are forever associated with Andy Murray. Crying along with him as he broke down after losing the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer in 2012, then screaming him over the line when he returned weeks later to beat the same man and take Olympic Gold. Then finally in 2013, losing my voice watching him take Novak Djokovic apart in straight sets to end the British curse and give me, and the rest of the nation, a July afternoon that will be unforgettable.
one senior hip surgeon I spoke to told me that he “doesn’t see any recovery
coming”, I believe that if there is one player that could make it back, it
would be Sir Andy Murray. IF it
happens, it would make him truly one of the all-time tennis greats.