Reacting to the news that Andy Murray’s retirement may be imminent, Michael Graham hails a sportsman who has embodied the very best of Britain.
It was the news that no one wanted but, in our heart of hearts, we were all probably expecting.
On Thursday, a tearful Andy Murray sat before the assorted press and confirmed that he will participate in the Australian Open, but it may be his last tournament.
Furthermore, even if it isn’t, it won’t be long before that particular milestone is upon us.
“During my training block I spoke to my team and told them I can’t keep doing this,” Murray told the press through is tears.
“I said to my team, ‘Look, I think I can get through this until Wimbledon.’ That’s where I’d like to stop playing. But I’m also not certain I’m able to do that. I’m not sure I’m able to play through the pain for another four or five months.
It should be noted that Murray made no official declaration to retire. Perhaps all we were witnessing was an outpouring of pessimism from a naturally emotional man who has been obliged to put a brave face on for too long without tangible reward. No one could blame him.
Everyone, after all, has their breaking point. Perhaps we have just caught Murray at his.
Let us not forget, after all, that mere months ago Novak Djokovic was, by his own admission, strongly considering walking away from tennis. Now, he sits top of the world once again.
With Murray, though, it’s all feeling very real and tangible. Part of it is that the writing has been on the wall for quite some time with this.
But, mainly, because, let’s face it, anything that has the power to reduce Andy Murray to apparent surrender is unlikely to be beaten at all.
That’s heart-breaking, and the reason is because Murray, frankly, deserves better. He deserved to go out on his own terms playing the game he loves and loving playing it – and he’s not loving it, it’s hurting him. It’s the cruellest of irony.
And that’s because it is difficult to truly put into words just what Murray means to British sport.
VIDEO: Full press conference as Andy Murray announces plans to retire from tennis.https://t.co/4VfjgOYhMj
— Tennis365 (@T365Official) January 11, 2019
There are few events, sporting or otherwise, of which Britain is prouder than Wimbledon, and rightly so. It is an iconic tournament played in quintessentially British surroundings and is truly the most coveted prize in tennis.
Before Murray, though, it had become a torturous affair and annual reminder just how irrelevant in the tennis world British talent was. It was him who changed that. He gave us a contender, and he gave us a winner -twice. It was inspirational and it reignited a nation’s passion. That’s magic, whichever way you want to look at it.
Away from Wimbledon, Murray still embodied the best of Britain and carried it around the world.
At his best he was ferociously defiant and doggedly determined. He didn’t know when he was beaten. He defended his turf with such bulldog spirit that a Winston Churchill voice-over would not have felt even the remotest bit odd.
Whether or not this truly is the end for Murray as a player we don’t know. The pain could ease and the fire return between now and Wimbledon. His body could adapt and his game evolve. You wouldn’t put it past him, no matter how long the odds appear right now.
But whatever the future holds, Murray’s legacy will endure as one of the single greatest sports-people in a great sporting nation’s history.
Trio up and running at Roland Garros.
No problems for Roger Federer and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Juan Martin del Potro still far away from his best level.
Angelique Kerber an early loser.
We know Rafael Nadal is favourite, but who else makes it?
Katie Swann has opened up about “overall well-being”.
Will Simona Halep successfully defend her trophy?
Alexander Zverev heads to #RG19 with a bit of confidence.
Benoit Paire secures title No 3.
Chang’s French Open title should inspire Nishikori.