With his head hung low, tears in his eyes and a break in his voice, three-time Grand Slam champion, Sir Andy Murray admitted that he had been in severe pain for ‘a number of years’ and that he had originally planned to retire after Wimbledon this summer but he doesn’t know if his body can sustain another four or five months of intense training.
The emotional press conference, prior to Murray’s Australian Open first round match against 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut led to the former world number one taking a brief break from the cameras to compose himself before returning to reveal his original plans to hang up the racket this summer. He had doubts if he could continue until then and in fact, the Australian Open could be where the tennis legend bows out from the sport.
The outpour of support for Murray on social and mainstream media was overwhelming from fans, celebrities and his fellow players alike. Many praised him for being a champion on and off the court and being a role model to millions, proving that if a boy from Dunblane could reach the peak of his sport, why couldn’t they?
Despite a valiant and spirited effort from the tennis legend, he lost out to the Spaniard in five sets and received a standing ovation from the Melbourne fans worthy of winning the tournament. Bautista Agut stood aside to allow Murray to accept the adulation of the fans before he was shown a recording of his fellow professionals congratulating him on an outstanding career.
What was most striking about the reaction to Murray’s untimely potential retirement was the ‘legend-status’ reaction he received from the mainstream media.
It is no secret that the media and Murray haven’t always had the greatest relationship over the last 12 years or so. Murray was always branded as ‘grumpy,’ ‘abrasive’ and ‘boring’ by the press, and his joke that he would ‘support whoever England was playing against’ during the 2006 World Cup in Germany – a statement he would long regret – did not win him any fans south of the border. If anything, it turned many against him.
The common joke that surrounded Murray’s career from then on was that he was ‘British when he wins, Scottish when he loses’ and this really came to fruition in the agonising journey and constant disappointment of losing his first four Grand Slam finals. The tide began to turn however when he lost to Rodger Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon Men’s singles final and broke down in tears during his post-match interview with his famous “I’m going to try this and it’s not going to be easy” that many recognised that he was human and millions of us cried along with him.
Despite this, the criticism didn’t stop and weeks prior to winning Olympic gold in 2012, Huffington Post described Murray as a “dour-faced Scot, living up to his peevish reputation…throwing his toys out the pram at the slightest hint of criticism.” However, after beating Novak Djokovic to win the US open in 2012 then in 2013 becoming the first British man to win the Wimbledon men’s singles championship since Fred Perry did so in 1936 sparked nationwide jubilation and a knighthood soon followed.
Headlines such as ‘It’s official, Andy Murray is a national treasure’ would become a mainstay in the media after Murray would dismiss any anti-English bias many thought he had by winning two Olympic gold medals and the Davis Cup for Great Britain and showing how much it meant to him to play for his country.
It took the best part of a decade, but Sir Andrew Murray eventually won us all over with his grit, determination and passion. On his journey, we hit every shot with him, cried tears of heartbreak with him, hid behind our couches on those Championship points and celebrated as if we had won those titles ourselves and, in a way, we did. Andy won them for us all, even the doubters. It has been an arduous journey, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We all hope to see you at Wimbledon in July and beyond. Thank you, Sir Andy.
Image: Carine06 via Flickr