Image Credit: Image: Carine06
What a result it used to be – to draw Andy Murray at Wimbledon. It was any player’s
dream; Centre Court would be packed, that was a guarantee. But it goes without
saying, the man that drew Andy Murray was the villain of the day.
The joy and pride and buzz around SW19 when the Scotsman went storming into the later
rounds was an intangible energy of belief, brilliance, strawberries and cream. In
2017, the taste became distinctly more bitter though, as Murray struggled with
a lingering hip injury. Bad form set in, culminating in a quarter-final defeat
to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon.
With his ATP World Ranking plummeting from 1st to 839th in one year,
Murray ummed and aahed about retirement. Ultimately, he proceeded with hip-resurfacing
Ever the philosopher, Murray deliberated heavily over his return to tennis. Indeed –
would it even happen at all? It would. Murray reappeared in June at Queen’s,
one of his favourite destinations on the tour. But this wouldn’t be a wildcard
Andy Murray battling through alone. He had a partner; playing doubles with
Spanish veteran Feliciano López.
Driven by a fierce and dedicated following, the pair knocked out the top seeds in Round 1
and the defending champions at the semi-final stage on their way to an inspired
title victory. But the trophy itself paled into insignificance when one
observed the quality of tennis these two were producing. Murray, in particular,
made ridiculous winners and audacious lobs, delving into his dusty catalogue of
scintillating tennis to truly capture a British tennis audience again.
There were to be no more titles over the rest of the summer though, as Murray’s continuing
return to the sport he loves yielded first, second and third round exits in his
next three competitions. These were the men’s doubles at Eastbourne and both
the men’s and mixed doubles at Wimbledon. In the mixed doubles, Serena Williams
was Murray’s faithful partner. Here she displayed just how supreme she has been
for the last twenty years. Murray was good too; very good – but still
maintained that a return to singles was a good while away, yet.
Further appearances at doubles events with his brother Jamie and the Lopez again
offered yet more stunning tennis, not more titles. Murray’s next move was the
biggest crowd-pleaser of all. He confirmed his return as a singles player.
It wasn’t easy. Murray’s charisma and superhuman belief in himself doesn’t see him
through every time. Defeats to the likes of Richard Gasquet, Alex de Minaur and
Fabio Fognini were to be expected at this stage, but Murray was producing
At the China Open, he produced an exceptional performance at the net to defeat 13th
seed Matteo Berrettini, of Italy, backing this up by knocking compatriot
Cameron Norrie out in the following round. Defeat at the quarterfinals to
Dominic Thiem was an expected outcome, however. Thiem is the world number 5 and
Murray’s return was never going to be completely seamless.
But seamless he was at the European Open in Antwerp. Kimmer Coppejans, Pablo Cuevas
and Marius Copil provided tough competition in the early rounds, but victories
over them all sent Andy Murray flying through to the semifinals. French prodigy
Ugo Humbert went ahead but ultimately went down as Murray reached an ATP Final
behind such emotional and poignant context.
A familiar foe awaited Murray; an old rivalry with Stan Wawrinka was about to write its
newest chapter. Again, Murray lost the first set. And then just as in the semi,
he focused, regrouped and upped his levels.
Wawrinka was firing on all cylinders in that first set, but Murray dug deep and broke back
for 3-3 midway through the second. He gave out one of his almighty roars,
igniting a similar reaction from the Antwerp crowd. And then a number of
minutes later, he broke decisively again – stealing the second set to level the
In the third and final set, the man that never stops running outfoxed the three-time
Grand Slam winner to edge a pulsating contest. With that, Sir Andy Murray
claimed his first ATP title in two-and-a-half years.
Deeply drained after the match, he acknowledged the crowd, before politely sitting
down on his bench and sobbing into his hands.
Andy Murray won Queen’s as a doubles player on his return from potentially
career-ending surgery back in June. But does that make him a doubles player?
No. This brother from Dunblane was born to take centre stage at Centre Courts
around the world. Long may that continue.