NEWS

Knighthood rounds off stellar year for Andy Murray

January 3, 2017

By any standards, 2016 was an extraordinary year for Andy Murray.

As if becoming Wimbledon champion again, Olympic gold medallist again, securing a career-best nine titles in a year, a maiden ATP World Tour Finals triumph, the world number one spot, winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award for an unprecedented third time and becoming a father was not enough, he ended it by learning that he is now to become Sir Andy Murray.

The Scot had previously suggested that, at the age of 29, he is "too young" for such a title, but he was delighted by the news anyway.

He remarked: "I still feel like Andy Murray - that feels more normal - but I am happy with the knighthood and it is a nice way to start the new year."

Sir Andy finished 2016 with a victory in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi over world number three Milos Raonic, the man he defeated in the finals of both the Aegon Championships and the Championships, Wimbledon last year.

Tennis lovers booking corporate hospitality for those events will include many hoping to see Sir Andy repeat those feats in 2017, as well as simply enjoying the novelty of seeing someone with a knighthood on court.

Sporting knighthoods were an uncommon phenomenon until recent years, and rarely bestowed on those still competing; exceptions to this include Sir Bradley Wiggins, who retired last week, Mo Farah and New Zealand cricketer Sir Richard Hadlee, who was knighted during the final Test series of his career in England in 1990. It was certainly unheard of back in the days of Fred Perry, while the likes of Virginia Wade and Sue Barker were never made dames in the way that athletes like Jessica Ennis-Hill and Kelly Holmes have been.

However, there have been some individuals with grand titles who have featured at Wimbledon. Perry, for instance, won his second and third Wimbledon titles against Baron Gottfried von Cramm, who was to then lose a third successive final against Don Budge. He did, however, win the French Open twice. Other players have come from some distinctly blue-blooded backgrounds, with the first ever Wimbledon champion Spencer Gore being a great-grandson of the Earl of Arran.

While Sir Andy Murray may have been born a lot nearer Arran than Londoner Gore, he would only claim nobility in the tennis sense. This is a status he has earned the hard way, in an era of brilliance from the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The question now is whether the knight can slay the dragons of the modern era yet again. Djokovic will doubtless be breathing fire as he seeks to win back the world number one spot and, with six Australian Open wins, Melbourne Park is definitely his lair. Winning there after being runner-up five times will take all the skill and courage Sir Andy can muster.

Aside from Djokovic, the fire still seems to be burning in Roger Federer, who declared last week that he plans to play on for two or three more years. His former coach Paul Annacone said that, even aged 35, he is capable of adding to his record tally of 17 Grand Slams, with his best chance likely to come at Wimbledon.

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