Players Of The Decade: Andy Murray
Entering the decade, it seemed to be a question of when and not if Andy Murray would win a Grand Slam. The Brit had four ATP Masters 1000 titles and several victories over the Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, but defeating them at a major proved far more difficult to accomplish.
Having already lost the 2008 US Open championship match to Roger Federer, Murray finished runner-up at the 2010 and 2011 Australian Open (l. to Federer and Djokovic), then fell to Federer again in the 2012 Wimbledon final. The Brit had matched Ivan Lendl’s “record” of playing four Grand Slam finals without taking a title.
Fittingly, it would be Lendl who helped Murray get over the line during their coaching partnership from 2012-2014. The stoic former World No. 1 curbed Murray’s on-court temper and helped him maintain a high level of consistency throughout tournaments.
Energised by back-to-back victories over Djokovic and Federer to secure a gold medal for Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics, Murray powered into the US Open final against Djokovic. His dramatic 7-6(10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 win over the Serbian took four hours and 54 minutes, matching Lendl and Mats Willander's record for the longest final in tournament this history.
Not only did the triumph make Murray the first British man since Fred Perry (1936 Wimbledon) to lift a Grand Slam title, it also gave him a seat at tennis’ top table and turned the Big Three into the Big Four. Energised by joining his elite peers after years of chasing them, he followed up by defeating Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final and became the first British man in 77 years to prevail at The All England Club.
Murray would scale even greater heights in 2016. After a fifth runner-up showing in Melbourne and recording his first Roland Garros final (both l. to Djokovic), he prevailed again at Wimbledon (d. Raonic) and defended his Olympic crown in Rio de Janeiro (d. Del Potro). He finished the season with one of the greatest fairytale runs in modern tennis history. He won 24 straight matches, a run culminating in victory over Djokovic in the Nitto ATP Finals title match in a winner-takes-all battle for the coveted year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking.
But after reaching the pinnacle of the sport, a severe right hip injury shut down his 2017 season after Wimbledon. The Brit underwent surgery in January 2018 and returned to action that June after an 11-month absence, but still experienced pain when he played. Before his first-round defeat at this year’s Australian Open, an emotional Murray announced his intention to retire after Wimbledon.
“I can still play to a level — not a level that I’m happy playing at,” Murray said in a pre-tournament press conference. “It’s not just that. The pain is too much, really. I don’t want to continue playing that way. I think I have tried pretty much everything I could to get it right, and that hasn’t worked.”
But the Brit’s plans altered considerably within a couple of weeks. Murray instead opted for a second surgery and had a metal plate inserted into his hip joint. He threw himself into recovery and soon tested the waters with a foray into doubles, winning his first event back in June with Feliciano Lopez at Queen’s Club (d. Ram/Salisbury).
By August, Murray felt confident enough in his metal hip to focus on a singles comeback. Just two months later, he brought himself and the Antwerp crowd to tears by defeating Stan Wawrinka for his first ATP Tour singles crown since 2017 Dubai.
The Brit is too much of a perfectionist to let his latest comeback be a mere nostalgia moment. With his current form and proven track record of overcoming adversity, all signs point to him producing more memorable moments in the years to come.