Friday 11 January 2019: A press conference is called at Melbourne Park; an opportunity to speak to Grand Slam winner and five times Australian Open finalist, Andy Murray, about his troublesome right hip and hopes for the year ahead. Within seconds of the first question being asked, Murray excused himself to re-compose, only to return to reveal that the pain was too much and he couldn’t go on playing like this. His following words would go on to be replayed around the world: “I can’t keep doing this, I need to have an end point. I think I can get through this until Wimbledon. That is where I would like to stop playing.”
To try and condense Andy Murray’s career into five moments, which I plan to do, is tough verging on impossible when dealing with a player whose CV is glittered with titles, trophies and history. There are, though, a few that stand out above the rest, with Wimbledon playing its part.
1) OLYMPIC GOLD, LONDON 2012
Wimbledon, the scene of both ecstasy and agony for the former British Number 1:
The agony when, on Sunday 8 July 2012, the country’s years of waiting for a men’s Wimbledon champion were set to continue, as Roger Federer claimed his seventh title at SW19, at the expense of Murray, in a gruelling four set win.
To be replaced by ecstasy a month later; in Murray’s own words, ‘the biggest win of my life,’ - winning Gold at the London Olympics, taking apart Federer in straight sets in the process and securing Britain’s first Gold in tennis in 104 years. To put the enormity of his win into context, he had beaten the King of Centre Court, who had won seven of his previous eight finals on this very stage.
Standing on the podium, eyes glistening, draped in a Union Jack as the national anthem played, we could all see how much it meant to Murray on what was an unforgettable afternoon in SW19.
2) GRAND SLAM WAIT COMES TO AN END, US OPEN 2012
It’s clear that winning Gold in London was the catalyst needed to turn “so close” into “just enough”, ending Britain’s 76 year wait for a male Grand Slam singles Champion. Just one month later, inside the biggest stadium in world tennis - The Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York - Murray was crowned US Open Champion, following defeat in four major finals and an epic five set (almost five hour) battle with defending Champion Novak Djokovic. A 55-shot rally in the sixth game of the final set the tone and the standard for what was to come. Two sets up, then two sets all but when it mattered most, Murray stood firm, held his serve and the wait was finally over.
3) 77 YEARS OF HURT COMES TO AN END AT WIMBLEDON 2013
The US Open success was followed by a win the next summer, watched by millions, as Wimbledon’s Centre Court once again took centre stage. Every year in the build-up, Murray was asked “Is this the year?”. And on Sunday 7 July 2013, when three Championship points were followed by three break points against Novak Djokovic, many started to wonder if it simply wasn’t meant to be. But, Murray converted his fourth Championship point, much to the delight of a partisan 15,000 Centre Court crowd, and was crowned Wimbledon Champion. The 77 years of waiting was over.
4) TEAMWORK AND DAVIS CUP GLORY, 2015
Tennis is often regarded as an individual sport but something very special happens when a team element is brought in. We witnessed this when Great Britain won the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936, back in November 2015. Andy Murray’s decisive win against Belgium’s David Goffin, sealed with a stunning backhand lob over the head of the Belgian on his second match point, saw the World Number 2 (as he was then) fall to the clay, cry, hug his teammates and then cry some more. Murray believes he plays some of his best tennis while competing on behalf of his country, and his Davis Cup captain, Leon Smith, labelled Murray a superstar.
5) THE YEAR THE DREAM BECAME A REALITY, 2016
The final moment is, in fact, a year: 2016. Nine titles from 13 finals, including a second Wimbledon crown, topped off by beating five-time Champion Novak Djokovic at the ATP World Tour Finals in November, all helping to clinch Murray the World Number 1 ranking. It would be his 78th win of the season, following a career-best 24 match winning run. At the start of the year, Number 1 wasn’t part of the plan but when it became a possibility, he did everything to make what had been a dream become a reality, in a quite remarkable year.
45 titles (including three Grand Slam titles, two of which were won here on the grass courts of Wimbledon), reaching World Number 1 and receiving a knighthood; an incredible CV of a man who has spent much of his career making the impossible possible.
Following that press conference in Melbourne, Andy Murray underwent an operation on his right hip, similar to Bob Bryan - one half of the legendary doubles team who, despite not knowing if he would ever play professional tennis again, has since returned to the court and winner’s circle.
Whether for a last time or as he takes tentative steps back on tour, Andy Murray would like Wimbledon to play a part in the next chapter of his story.
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