Andy Murray, struggling with injuries and age, says goodbye to Wimbledon

‘I think I just have to win Wimbledon to shut everyone up.’ — Andy Murray in The Daily Telegraph in June 2004

Mission accomplished, although it took Murray almost a decade to pull it off. He had to struggle and scream through all kinds of tennis problems before finally putting an end to all the annual talk about when a Brit might finally win Wimbledon again.

Now, at 37 and at the end of his career — win or lose (or be forced to retire due to recent back surgery) — he bids farewell to a tournament he has won not once, but twice. Three years passed between his first victory in 2013 and his second in 2016, when his proud country rewarded Murray with a knighthood. That same year, he won his second Olympic gold.

For over seventy years, the hope that a British man would win Wimbledon had become a tradition in a country that still loves its tradition: part of the landscape of the well-maintained All England Club where Fred Perry had won the men’s singles in 1936, but had long been without a British successor.

Tim Henman was still the local focal point when Murray emerged in 2005. Henman had reached the singles semi-finals four times by storming the net, but had always fallen short. He handled every setback with a firm handshake and a dignified demeanor.

Murray—a scruffy, shock-absorbing baseliner from Scotland—handled the pressure and the project very differently, grunting, groaning, and occasionally cursing between points. But above all, he rose to the challenge, lumbering heavily through the grass and moving with astonishing speed once the ball was in play.

He was a child prodigy who first entered the Wimbledon junior tournament at age 15 and entered the main draw at 18. He became an instant star when he reached the third round on his debut in 2005.

Murray declared his intentions. He wanted to win Wimbledon, and if you watch him chase it every summer, you can feeling how much he wanted to win it. There was no masking the raw ambition and no stopping the tears when, with his complete game combined, he lost in four sets to Roger Federer in the final in 2012.

“Okay, I’m going to try this, and it’s not going to be easy,” Murray told the crowd after losing, his voice cracking as he held the microphone.

He didn’t have to speak again for about 35 seconds as the fans roared their support. When he resumed, he joked that Federer was pretty good for a 30-year-old, thanked his team and family, then broke down again when he mentioned the crowd.

“Everyone always talks about the pressure of playing Wimbledon, how tough it is,” Murray said. “But it’s not the people who watch. They make it so much easier play. The support has been incredible, so thank you.”

Murray didn’t quite know it yet, but he had reached a turning point. Just a few weeks later, on the same patch of grass and dirt, he defeated Federer in three sets to win the 2012 Olympic gold medal.

“The biggest victory of my life,” he said.

It wasn’t quite Wimbledon, but it was an extraordinary performance in a very famous place.

“The similarity is that it’s at the All England Club, and it’s against Roger, but other than that it’s a very different dynamic,” Paul Annacone, a coach of Federer, said after that Olympic victory. “When Wimbledon happens, the country stands still. But when the Olympics happen, there are four million other things that happen. It’s a different level of expectation, a different level of pressure, in my opinion as an amateur psychologist. But I also think that Andy plays better every big game, and I think this win will help him.”

That proved true. He won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open later that summer, beating Novak Djokovic, his former junior rival and doubles partner, in five grueling sets.

When Murray returned to Wimbledon in 2013, he was ready for the real thing.

“I think they both obviously helped me in different ways,” he said of the Olympic gold and US Open title. “But the Wimbledon final last year was also important for me. There are some shots I would have liked to change, but I went for it and lost the match more or less on my terms. I felt like I wasn’t just sitting back and waiting a bit. I think that may be why I was able to recover well from that defeat.”

In 2013, history was on the line when Murray defeated Djokovic in the final in three sets. This ended the 77-year drought in British men’s singles.

“It took a tough, seasoned kid to do this,” Pat Cash, a former Wimbledon champion from Australia, said after Murray won.

Andy and his older brother, Jamie, were coached by their mother, Judy, who had spent a short time on the pro tour. Andy would become world number 1 in singles and Jamie number 1 in doubles. But her sons may not have had a professional career at all. In March 1996, a gunman and former scout leader was murdered shot and killed 16 students and a teacher at the gymnasium of their primary school in Dunblane, Scotland. According to Judy Murray, Andy’s class was on its way to the gym before he was dismissed.

“At the time, you had no idea how difficult something like that was,” Andy Murray told the BBC in 2013. “It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I really started to research it and dig into it a lot, because I didn’t really want to know.”

Towards the end, Sir Andy’s body began to crumble. He underwent arthroscopic hip surgery in 2018 and then, more radically, hip resurfacing surgery in 2019, breaking new ground for singles players by returning to the tour after that procedure. He has been competitive but rarely triumphant, winning just one singles title, in Antwerp, in 2019.

His tennis legacy was secured more than a decade ago, but perhaps sooner or later the chatter will resume at the All England Club, wondering when the next British man will win Wimbledon.

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