It’s Thursday, January 11, 2019. Andy Murray sits dejectedly before a crowded room of journalists at the Australian Open in the lead up to a 1st round encounter with Roberto Bautista-Agut. The Scot, known for his typically dry and somewhat humorous responses, fidgets in his seat and consistently darts his eyes to various corners of the room. He fields the first question. A put-away volley of a question for any seasoned veteran like Murray.
‘How are you feeling leading into this?’
‘Umm, yeah, not, not great.’
He breaks down in tears. Murray leaves the room to take a break and collect his thoughts.
Upon his return to the room, Andy is distraught. He explains that due to the tremendous pain he suffers (stemming from a long-term hip injury) he will likely only continue playing tennis until Wimbledon of the same year.
‘That’s where I would like to stop playing. But I’m also not certain I am able to do that.’
3 days later, on January 14th, Andy showed his trademark fighting spirit, but ultimately fell to the 22nd seeded Spaniard in 5 grueling sets. His mother, Judy, described how Andy was unable to walk for 2 entire days following the match. Murray’s career looked on the rocks.
If there is one hallmark of Andy Murray as a tennis player, it is the grind. The art of the grind is not just making every ball, but making sure you exhaust your opponent to the point of abject failure. He typifies, embodies and exudes the art of the grind. Known for his never-say-die attitude, matches with Andy Murray were (and are) an absolute war of attrition. Andy will not willingly give you an inch.
Winning 3 Grand Slam singles titles, 2 Olympic gold medals, 1 ATP Tour Finals victory and becoming world no. 1 in the age of Federer, Nadal & Djokovic is no mean feat. Murray may feel unlucky to have been born in the same generation as 3 of the greatest tennis players of all time, but I actually think this makes his achievements even more impressive.
Following his Australian Open defeat, there was an outpouring of emotion for the lovable Scot and his seemingly impending retirement from the sport. Andy had hip resurfacing surgery in late January of 2019, which he hoped would end years of hip pain.
Professor Max Fehily, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and clinical director at the Manchester Hip Clinic, stated “This is a common injury in high-impact sports such as martial arts, rugby and gymnastics. It’s not as common in tennis, but Murray is such an impact player.” He continued, “If Murray is able to return to tennis, he puts himself at risk of further injury at best, and at the other end of the scale may develop severe osteoarthritis,”
But there are anomalies. Legendary doubles player, Bob Bryan, says his own return to the court following surgery was a success, but that singles is “a different monster. Those guys are sliding around, killing themselves for four hours,” he said. “Who knows if this joint would hold up?
Over the following 7 months, Andy used his grit and determination to push through rehabilitation efforts ahead of schedule, including 5 tournaments where he played doubles with mild success. He returned to the singles court at the Cincinnati Open, losing in straight sets to Richard Gasquet. The following week, he lost to Tennys Sandgren in straight sets. He stepped down from ATP to the second tier of men’s tennis, the Challenger Circuit, where he lost in the 4th round in Spain.
Murray’s early singles results didn’t exactly point to success. And with a game style based upon winning lengthy rally exchanges and grinding opponents down with his movement, the future looked rather bleak for the Muzz following hip surgery.
Suddenly, it’s late September, 2019. Enter the Asian Swing. Andy recorded some solid victories in successive tournaments in Asia, including a win over US Open Quarter-Finalist, Matteo Berretini. He headed to the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium, full of optimism. After some solid victories, he made the final against Stan Wawrinka. Finding himself a set down, Andy channeled the art of the grind to push it to a 3rd set. Here’s championship point.
Huge. Absolutely Huge. 9 months after potentially career-ending surgery and only 7 singles tournaments into a comeback, he tastes victory on the ATP singles stage. Following the victory, Judy Murray said it best, ‘Winning on court is really a big joy, but the biggest triumph was to see him play without any pain and walk without being on crutches. But he is such a warrior on court that I knew he would have not given up.’
Andy Murray is back! Do you think he can win another grand slam? Let us know on on our Instagram here.