Murray Withdraws – 10 Reasons We Love Andy

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Bill Simons

Wimbledon

For years tennis had all but worshiped the Big Three. And for good reason. The noble trio of Roger, Rafa and Novak has claimed 66 Slams. But for many who know Andy Murray, and for some who watched him play, the pale Scot, in his way, was the greatest man of the greatest generation.

Sure, he only won three Slams, two Olympic golds and two Davis Cup Championships. And the poor lad was only No. 1 for a measly 41 weeks. And when it comes to charisma, he was a bowl of soggy porridge compared to Roger’s and Rafa’s platters of sizzling steak. Like Prince Harry, who we knew had little chance of becoming king, Murray was considered “the spare,” deep in the shadow of the Big Three. Andy once quipped, “I can cry like Roger. It’s just a shame I can’t play like him.” 

Still, the man had game. He had the grit of Nadal, a backhand return that could rival Djokovic’s and the anticipation of a panther. Off court, he had the wit of Roddick, the conscience of Ashe and a feminism that brought to mind his mum Judy. Sure he would grumble and moan incessantly, but he had a generosity that knew few bounds.

He played before the queen, was honored as a knight and was featured on many stamps. They even named a lion after him.

But while others might put on airs and be rather full of themselves, the pallid guy from Dunblane was just “Andy.” Mark Petschy noted, “It’s his authenticity that has made so many fans gravitate towards him.”

While speaking of Murray with Simon Briggs, Frances Tiafoe said, “This is going to sound crazy, but out of all the big four, I probably have the most respect for that guy. When you think about his career, his love for the game, being resilient, staying with it…You guys should worship the ground this guy walks on.

“He’s put his body on the line…He just loves the game and can’t live without it.”

Years ago John Leicester noted, “This was the sailor who soldiered through storms that chased others back to harbor, the boxer repeatedly floored but never knocked out. He used the beatings he suffered from Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – losing 20 of the 25 times he played them at majors – as reasons to keep improving.”

Recently at Indian Wells, Andrew Krasny observed, “You showed all of us that you still have super powers…You could be on a yacht in the south of France counting your money [Murray is the fourth leading money maker in ATP history and has a net worth of $100 million], but I have a feeling you will still be playing here in your 80s.”

So did others. On Sunday, Murray told the press how much he wanted to play singles one last time at Wimbledon. Janko Tipsarevic once observed, “Murray is completely obsessed…If he wants something really badly, there’s no way it will not happen.”

But at last, the best one-hipped player in history ran out of miracles. Just over a week after having back surgery, he at last realized he had to stop. But the adoration Murray drew will go on as long as they open the gates at Wimbledon. Here’s why we love Andy.

1. THE SURVIVOR: From the outset he endured hardship. As a fifth grader he hid under a desk during a mass shooting at his school that killed 17. Then he survived a rough divorce in his family and being shipped off to a Spanish tennis factory.

For years he’s had to navigate the fierce scrutiny of the British press – talk about living in a fishbowl. And no one suffered more defeats at the hands of the Big 3. He’s 29-56 against Nole, Roger and Rafa combined. Amazingly, he lost 18 times in the semis or finals of Slams. Bravely he battled on, despite enduring layers of emotional scar tissue. Plus, he overcame numerous surgeries and has long played with an artificial hip.

No one could take a punch like Andy, who coincidentally is a huge boxing fan. Broadcaster Steve Weissman noted, “The man loves to suffer – and we love him for it.”

2. GRIT: Murray never had the biggest strokes, but he had a simmering fire in his belly. Few others so adored the battle. A Murray match was a war – and often an opera. 

Andy Roddick noted, “Murray takes you into a gutter with him and rolls you around. I never thought I’d see him move the way he was moving today…He doesn’t need the titles…He’s just out there grinding, anticipating, showing his tennis IQ…I love the grittiness.” Djokovic added that it was inspiring that he would be willing to go out and play challengers on clay just to rebuild his ranking. 

3. A MAN OF CONSCIENCE: Murray often noted the global nature of tennis and how the sport brought so many together. No player, this side of Arthur Ashe or Billie Jean, spoke of the world so often and with such insight. It didn’t matter if the issue was war, gun violence, drug use, gambling, sexism, Covid, Scottish independence, Saudi Arabia or toxic masculinity – Andy spoke out. His views had insight. His tone was measured. He said, “If there’s something I care about, then I spend a lot of time researching and reading about it.”

4. GENEROSITY: Simply put, the man loved to share. Few others were more giving to the press. Whether just outside the BBC studios, by Wimbledon’s players’ exit or in a small Indian Wells passageway, he’d take a minute to talk to this reporter, even if his kids were waiting. He was transparent, and let you in. 

More significantly, when his pal Ross Hutchins was battling cancer, Andy became an extraordinary caretaker – what a friend. When war broke out, he gave all his earnings for the rest of the season to embattled Ukrainians – quite the peace warrior. Even though he was injured, he traveled all the way to Serbia to cheer on Britain’s Davis Cup team – such a teammate.   

5. THE PATRIOT: It was said that whenever Andy lost a match, the English claimed he was a Scot and whenever he won, he was a Brit. In any case, before Andy emerged, British tennis was a mess. Prior to their meeting in the 2010 Australian Open final, Federer joked that Andy would “like to win the first [major] for British tennis in, like, 150,000 years.” 

Then Andy went on to become the first Brit to win a Slam in 76 years, the first to win Wimbledon in 77 years and Britain’s first Olympics singles winner in 104 years. In 2015 he led Britain to their first Davis Cup in 79 years. BBC gushed: “You can’t contain it. You can’t control it. It burns. It stings. It hurts…Embrace it. Say it together: ‘I am Murray! I am Murray!’”

Just as Murray was about to win his second Wimbledon, Britain had been caught up in Brexit-induced chaos. So it wasn’t surprising that after Andy won, the Telegraph headline read: “At last, something for the whole nation to cheer.”

6. FAMILY MAN: The Murrays are Europe’s foremost tennis clan. Andy’s mother Judy was a Scottish champion who long battled the British establishment, which bristled: “OMG she’s wearing jeans!” A fine teacher, she continually gives back to tennis and, as Europe’s answer to Billie Jean King, often speaks her mind.

Her eldest son Jamie became the No. 1 doubles player in the world. Andy, like Federer, has four children and he loves to tell self-deprecating stories of how his kids are completely embarrassed to be seen with him and tease him relentlessly: “So who do you think you are dad? Andy Murray or something?”

7. THE WIT: On court Andy howled. He railed against his fate. No one berated himself with such unfiltered fury. This was King Lear in tennis shorts. If you were in his Friends’ Box, you’d better be able to endure torrents of abuse. Brett Haber called him “the mumble tank”. 

But off-court, his wicked Scottish humor was a delight, whether he was joking about how often he cried, how a interview with Jim Courier proved how boring he was, how he had the dullest speaking voice in the world, that he could barely speak one language, or how he managed to lose his wedding ring in a desert parking lot. Not surprisingly, Frances Tiafoe claims that Andy is one of the three funniest players in tennis.

8. THE WORKING STIFF: Bob Bryan observed, “You look at the great workers in history: Lendl, Courier, Roddick. This guy is maybe even a step up from those guys.” All of Andy’s sweaty drills and tedious workouts were at the core of his success – right? Murray says maybe not. He confided, “I would have been okay if I’d played a little bit less, taken a few more days off, spent a bit more time resting.”  

9. THE MALE FEMINIST: Like Jimmy Connors, Murray was raised by a woman to beat men. He hired a female coach, Amelie Mauresmo, was critical of a chauvinistic incident in California, interrupted a Wimbledon reporter who was asking a sexist question, and commented on Margaret Court’s views on same-sex marriage, saying, “I don’t see why anyone has a problem with two people who love each other getting married.” Billie Jean King told Andy, “You are a champion on and off the court…Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equality will inspire future generations.”

10. MARATHON MAN: Because of his defensive style, his lack of any huge shots, his immeasurable grit and inability to give up, Murray played one marathon match after another against the likes of John Isner, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Stan Wawrinka and Matteo Berrettini. We once saw him slumped over his seat during a middle-of-the-night match in Washington DC. As he scurried about with a limp, we wondered how he’d survive a 4:39 battle at the US Open. Drained and nearly dazed, he played until 4:08 AM in Melbourne. 

We’re not sure how this intrepid man did it. What is certain is that tennis will never again see a warrior from the north quite like this knight we so love.

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