It would be highly skeptical if an individual did not feel the slightest hint of sadness at Andy Murray’s recent press conference in which the 31-year-old tearfully announced his plans to, if possible, retire after competing in this year’s Wimbledon. It was, unsurprisingly, a difficult moment for the United Kingdom to watch as a man who has gripped the nation on the tennis courts since his arrival on the professional scene called time on his illustrious career.
Murray’s three grand-slam triumphs, his consecutive gold-medal wins, Davis cup win and eventual world number one status are made all the more incredible considering he was playing in what is generally considered as the greatest era of the professional men’s game. The collective fifty-two grand-slam triumphs of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic demonstrate this. Yet, whilst many other players in recent years have failed to overcome these champions, Murray made himself stand up to be counted. Many of us, including myself, doubted his mentality to become a winner but I believe it is safe to say that initially falling short was never a concern of fans. Losing the 2012 Wimbledon final only to win a gold medal against the same opponent within the next month. Losing the first four of his grand-slam final appearances, before his victory at the US open in 2012 against Djokovic. These initial losses only re-enforce his champion status, demonstrating that whilst he knows how to win, he also knows how to come back from a loss.
On top of all this, I can’t recall any other British sportsperson who has come under the same media scrutiny as Murray. Whilst the England football team may come close, they experienced pressure as a collective whole. Murray faced all of this, with the exception of his coaches and family, alone. The British media have a, let’s say controversial, reputation that, for some unbeknown reason, they always try and live up to. The media was in finest form during Murray’s Wimbledon win in 2016, upon which included Novak Djokovic’s early third-round exit, his less-favoured opponent for the final, and involved drastically heightened expectations. Commentators frequently wrote everyone off and the headlines in the papers suggested Murray had already won. Any man that can rise above the tidal wave of British media nonsense deserves immense credit in my book.
Sadly though, and not that this will bother Sir Andy one iota, we live in a world of cyber-bullies, too afraid to actually say what they mean and thus they resort to the cowardly act of posting meaningless comments on Facebook and Twitter, slandering Murray’s supposedly dull personality and his record in grand-slam finals. The world of internet-warriors has a profound and sometimes worrying impact on people’s opinions regarding sports. Yet, for all the criticism of his personality, Murray’s three sports personality of the year awards, two of which came in consecutive years, speak for themselves. Not only is this award determined by the public, but it is a reminder of the sportsman’s likeness as well as his tennis ability.
His frequent calling out of sexism is something not seen enough in the world of professional sport. A personal favourite example of this was, having just suffered a quarter-final defeat to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon in 2017, Murray was quick to correct a journalist who claimed his opponent was the first US player to reach a grand-slam semi-final since 2009 — A statement proved incorrect by the success of legend, Serena Williams. Going back to the comments about his personality, put yourself in his position — you’ve just spent five hours on a court against the relentless Nadal and your body is presumably in immense pain. I’d like to think that, ‘chatty,’ would be the last word to spring to mind.
However, I don’t want this article to come across as some kind of eulogy. After all, if reports are to be believed, there is a chance we will see the man back in action once again, all be it likely playing without the same incredible ability that we have become so accustomed to. But, if his recent Australian open defeat to current world number 18 Roberto Bautista Agut is to be his last match, it showed us that the furious determination which defined his playing style lived on till the end. Playing through injury, Murray recovered from two sets down to make it two-all before finally falling short in the final set. Ultimately, what captivated us all, was his sheer determination and a never say die attitude that made every shot worth a watch.
It is difficult to think of another sportsperson produced by Great Britain with as much determination, all-around class and a general stubbornness to never give up, than that of Andy Murray. Whilst his retirement may have caused many among us to shed a tear, he’s a reminder that, in a world where Britain can’t seem to do much right at the moment, we have a quality exception to the rule.