Andy Murray – Good Night to a Good Knight

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Bill Simons

It soon will be time to say goodnight to a good knight. Britain’s Sir Andy Murray says he will be retiring this summer.

The man who became the best sportsman in British history completely turned around the tennis cred of his homeland. In 2010, the UK’s standing in tennis was so weak that just before facing him in the Aussie Open final, trash-talking Roger Federer said that Andy would “like to win the first [major] for British tennis in…like, 150,000 years.” 

Undeterred, Murray soon became the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 76 years, the first British tennis gold medalist in 88 years and he led the UK to its first Davis Cup championship in 79 years and is the only Brit in the Open era to be No. 1.

Still, the late actor and Scottish nationalist Sean Connery told Inside Tennis, “If Murray lost, he was always said to be a Scot. If he won, he was a Brit.”

Murray called himself “an absolute turnip.” But he was an absolute gem for this game. 

True, Andy could whine a bit. He barked at his Friends Box incessantly and Wimbledon’s Henman Hill was never re-named Murray Mount. But if there was a mountain to be climbed Murray would do it. Overcoming obstacles was his thing. 

As a fifth grader, he hid under a desk to survive a mass murderer who killed 17 people in his Scottish school. As a young teen he went off to a Spanish boot camp to perfect his game. His family endured a tough divorce. There is little that’s more challenging for any athlete than for decades to be under the scrutiny of the unsparing British press. Boy, did Andy get into trouble when, as a teen, he joked that he’d “support whatever [soccer team] England was playing against.” And let’s not even talk about the surgeries the world’s best one-hipped player had to endure.

But not only was Murray a fierce Nadal-like competitor with a dogged determination, an uncanny sense of anticipation, a sublime backhand and an almost impenetrable return of serve, since Arthur Ashe, he’s emerged as the foremost conscience of tennis. 

He was the first prominent ATP star to hire a woman coach, Amelie Mauresmo. Time and again he spoke out on key issues. There should be equal pay in tennis. What’s wrong with same-sex marriage? We should be careful not to get entangled with Saudi Arabia. America has to do something about its gun violence. Sharapova’s drug cheating wasn’t okay. The ATP should be more vigilant when it comes to domestic violence, and those who are under scrutiny for violent acts should not be in its leadership positions. And listen, all you bravehearts, Scotland should be independent.  

Andy has provided huge sums in support of Ukraine. And he tirelessly helped his friend, Ross Hutchins, survive cancer. Then again his mother Judy, is Europe’s answer to Billie Jean King. “His authenticity,” said broadcaster Mark Petchey, “was what made so many fans gravitate toward him.”

Andy’s fellow players adored him. “Murray takes you into a gutter with him and rolls you around for a little bit,” said Andy Roddick. “I never in my life thought I would see him move the way he was moving today…He doesn’t need the titles, he doesn’t need the money…He’s just out here grinding, showing his tennis IQ. I like seeing him back…I love the grittiness.”

Writer John Leicester noted that Murray was “the sailor who soldiered through storms that chased others back to harbor, the boxer repeatedly floored but never knocked out. He used the [58] beatings he suffered from Federer, Nadal and Djokovic…as reasons to keep improving.” Some claimed Andy’s will power was godlike. Writer Simon Briggs claimed, “Murray was as mentally unflappable as the Dalai Lama.” 

Andy, who was known for his endless marathon matches, often was sullen on court, yet his wry humor was celebrated. Frances Tiafoe called the man who said, “I can cry like Roger. It’s just a shame I can’t play like him,” one of tennis’ three funniest players. 

He was No. 1 for 41 weeks and won 46 titles. Still, his record didn’t match up to that of the big three. Rather he was, so to speak, the fourth Beatle of tennis. “Muzz,” as he is affectionately called, loves his craft, his sport and, as a father of four, his family. 

After he suffered a gut-wrenching loss in his first Wimbledon final in 2012, he began his speech with tears in his eyes by saying, “This isn’t going to be easy, but I will try.”

Then again Andy, 36, always tried. When Inside Tennis asked him what the one thing in his 20-year career that gave him the most satisfaction, he said, “I feel I gave it a pretty good go. I worked a lot. I didn’t miss many days of training through poor decisions or lack of discipline. I can’t have too many regrets.”

That’s for sure. After all, tennis has never seen a more noble braveheart than Muzz.

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