It’s summer 2005. The sun is shining, Wimbledon’s grass courts are greener than ever, the Great British public are out on Henman Hill with the iconic combo associated with the All England Club – strawberries and cream. Apologies if that has just left you with a sudden craving. Yet, the most important aspect of Wimbledon 16 years ago was a certain young, raw Scotsman making his debut at the Championships – Andy Murray.
Back then he was a young 18-year-old at the very beginning of his career, and he comes back now to the men’s singles for the first time since 2017 as a three-time Grand Slam winner, including a men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 2013. Henman Hill picked up a new name, Murray Mound and Britons could not be prouder of him.
For Murray’s success on the court and flying the flag for Britain, he has been plagued with injuries in recent years, most notably his hip which have affected his performances and also ruled him out of some Grand Slam tournaments too.
After a four-year absence due to his hip problems and more recently Covid-19, Murray will take to the hallowed courts and fans could not be happier to see him return. The Scotsman had a teary moment upon his return to Queen’s recently and it is fair to say he may have a much more emotional reception on his return to Wimbledon. The 34-year-old now has a metal hip and hopefully it will allow him to play to the incredible high standards that he had set himself eight years ago when he became Wimbledon champion.
Speaking to Sky Sports earlier this week, Murray spoke about his mental health struggles and sympathised with the young Naomi Osaka who withdrew from Wimbledon. He said, "I've obviously dealt with a lot of injuries in the last few years, which has been tough mentally, but, when I was younger, dealing with the pressure of playing high-level sport is not something that you're prepared for.”
There has been a lot of talk about this being Murray’s last Wimbledon and the Scot, like his adoring fans, does not hope that is the case. He told Sky Sports, “To me it's not so much about me worrying about it being my last one, it's just something that I think about. I've had so many injuries and so many setbacks you just don't really know what's round the corner. I want to approach each tournament and each match that I play like it's my last one so that I can get the most out of it.”
With the strong mentality that Murray has, it is hard not to want him to carry on for years to come but it has been clear for years that his body is not the same as it was when he first burst onto the ATP scene. Nonetheless, there is every chance that this could be his Wimbledon farewell and sadly there is a very slim chance of it being a ‘go out with a bang’ scenario. The Andy Murray that worked tirelessly to get back to Wimbledon and win it in 2013 is still there - it is just his body that is not at the same level as his spirit.
Murray is currently ranked as the world 124 and this is because ever since his hip resurfacing operation in 2018, he has really struggled for form. Most recently, he made his return to Queen’s where he was eliminated in the round of 16 to eventual winner Matteo Berrettini, losing 6-3 6-3. He said after his defeat that he needed to improve his tennis with Wimbledon just around the corner. Murray was happy with this movement around the court as he looks to manage a groin injury as he works his way back to full fitness.
Entering this year’s Championship as one of the discretionary wild cards, Murray will be hoping to have a relatively successful campaign but his ageing body, injury problems of the past and his form since his return could lead to an anti-climactic early exit. He needs to be careful that he is not remembered for his later years in tennis over his Grand Slam success – that final of 2013, which was the pinnacle of his career along with his back-to-back gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic games.
A true British sporting hero and a sensational tennis player, Andy Murray’s triumphs will be remembered for years to come and everyone in the UK will be hoping for one more Murray masterclass – he deserves it!