June 14, 2024
Andy Murray

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - MARCH 24: Andy Murray of Great Britain injures his left leg during a rally against Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic in the third round of the Miami Open at the Hard Rock Stadium on March 24, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Frey/TPN/Getty Images)GETTY IMAGES

“Andy Murray in agony” is a phrase that should be registered as a trademark alongside some of the Scot’s other businesses. One of those is called 77 Sports Management, citing the number of years of hurt that passed since a British male had won Wimbledon before Murray famously beat Novak Djokovic in 2013.

The grass kingdom of Sw19 recently gave a window into the agony too. Just before the Centre Court curfew was called on his late-night epic against Stefanos Tsitsipas last July, the three-time major champion “went down with a yelp into an agonized fetal position, clutching at the inside of his left groin,” according to the Telegraph. His Miami Open shriek against Thomas Machac had a worse outcome. The result was two ruptured major lateral ankle ligaments and a real question mark about any sort of comeback on his retirement parade.

Fate has extinguished the long goodbye. The irritation at constantly being asked when, where and how he might go is parked temporarily.

Pain has always been etched on the 36-year-old’s face throughout his career. Nothing has ever come easy for the Glaswegian. His default play is based on straining every sinew and reacting as if each lost point is a gut punch. Murray’s raison d’etre is one of physical extremity and self-flagellation when a well-rehearsed shot hits the net. There is no other mode, even at the best of times. 2024 has been one of the worst of times as the losses have piled up.

Murray looked like the living dead in his first-round match against Tomas Martin Etcheverry at the Australian Open. He was barely there in spirit. Signals of surrender have been spotted rather than the usual screaming at his team in extremis. The full-on, ranting and raging, roaring and rasping Murray has been tempered.

Despite all of his recent travails, Miami saw a mini rebirth of the William Wallace warrior spirit, as he defeated both Etcheverry and Matteo Berrettini, playfully scribbling on the camera “there’s life in the old dog yet.” Why did fate try to put the dog out of his misery now?

Fun is not something that emanates from the two-time Wimbledon champion’s game face or any other part of his metal frame. Freedom of movement has been compromised by two major hip surgeries that have elongated his career but at the same time given him a rather rigid android-like quality. Watching Sir Andy now is reminiscent of 3CPO bending down to pick up new balls. Everything is stiff.

“In tennis, it is not the opponent your fear, it is the failure itself, knowing how near you were but just out of reach,” the double Olympic singles champion said. He’s suffered several near misses last year when trying to close out matches, the kind of games he wouldn’t have thought twice about when in his pomp. There’s been a gradual, albeit very reluctant acceptance that his time is up.

The killer instinct in Murray appears to be raging in the dying light as the prospect of family life and a move away from the back-breaking practice ground looms large.

Scotland’s weather may be wet, windy and grey and Murray may have been this dour to some, but his personality was the equivalent of a streetfighter in a tough suburb of Glasgow. It’s what they call crowd connection. Fan engagement was never an issue once he proved that every game was the equivalent of a UFC bout. Tim Henman barely raised a fist in anger in his polite passion. Murray was – and still is – a full throttle firebrand.

Andy Murray
Andy Murray (GBR) grabs his groin as he falls to the ground in pain during his match against … [+]OFFSIDE VIA GETTY IMAGES

Writing a tennis obituary before a potential final act has passed gives the man some much-needed perspective. Murray’s mental reserves are huge. After four straight Grand Slam singles final losses, he finally broke through against Djokovic at Flushing Meadows in 2012. It took a huge amount of character to win that match after losing a two-set lead. It also set up his place at the Big Four table.

“He doesn’t deserve it for everything that he’s gone through and everything that he’s put himself through to keep playing, try to entertain and squeeze the last ounce out of his tennis career,” said former British number one Annabel Croft in an interview with Sky Sports. That sums up the magic of Murray. He was the last movie on Centre Court overtime. There could be one more reel to run.

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