British tennis may never find another like Andy Murray

Unfortunately, Andy Murray has announced plans to walk away from the game he loves and our tennis guru believes Britain may never find another like him…

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They criticised him, his mum, his wife, his personality, playing style, temperament, coaching choices, political views and even his hair.

They still criticise him.

Well they can relax their vocal chords and overzealous fingers – Andy Murray is leaving the stage.

Sadly, while tennis will see few individuals of his class and achievement in the future, it’s likely that his country never will.

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In the very early hours of Friday morning, at an emotional press conference in Melbourne, former world no.1 Andy Murray revealed that Wimbledon 2019 would be his last tournament as a professional tennis player. So long as that wretched right hip plays ball.

“I’ve been struggling for a long time” said the distraught Scot. “I’ve been in a lot of pain for, probably about 20 months now. I’ve pretty much done everything that I could to try and get my hip feeling better. It hasn’t helped loads… it’s been tough.”

Then, while struggling to hold back tears, Murray said what many knew (and dreaded) was coming.

“I can still play to a level, but not a level that I’m happy playing at. The pain is too much really. I don’t want to continue playing that way.”

It made for horrendous viewing as this wounded warrior outlined his plan to reach SW19 for a final hurrah, while accepting that he might not even make that date given ongoing discomfort.

Murray struggled with pain in his hip for years before it ultimately gave way in Paris after his semi-final with Stan Wawrinka in 2017. He struggled on to the last eight at Wimbledon that summer, but it was clear that the ailing joint needed help.

At the start of 2018, the Scot announced on Instagram that he had undergone surgery after much consultation. A tennis player in their 30s chooses surgery as a last resort.

Even a player with his variety couldn’t find an alternative path.

After recovery, the 31-year-old eventually made it back to action at Queen’s, but he fell in the first round to Nick Kyrgios. The rest of the season was marked by early exits and withdrawals, the most painful surely his first Wimbledon absence for 11 years.

Everyone in tennis hoped that his health might improve in 2019. Maybe his hip would have a change of heart and let him have a sendoff that a great champion deserves.

It did not care for the storyline. All the video clips, Twitter takes and tennis scuttlebutt proved true. The hip wasn’t better and Murray was far from the level needed to compete at grand slams.

His struggles in that widely reported practice session with Novak Djokovic, so long his nemesis Down Under, set us up for Friday’s announcement, but it still shocks.

Murray is six years younger than Roger Federer, a year younger than Rafael Nadal and only 7 days older than Novak Djokovic.

From tennis’s fantastic four – who’ve captured 47 of the last 50 majors – I didn’t think that the Scot would be first to hang up his racquet.

So, what legacy will he leave behind? If I were to pick one word, I’d go for monumental.

Murray is the best player that the Great Britain has produced in the professional era. His trophy cabinet includes three grand slams (2012 US Open, Wimbledon 2013, Wimbledon 2016), 45 singles titles and over 650 career wins.

In late 2016, he became the first man from Britain to reach world no.1 since ATP rankings arrived in 1973.

He can boast of 11 victories over Roger Federer, the first one coming when Murray was 19-year-old and the Swiss was untouchable. He’s also beaten Djokovic 11 times and can claim seven wins against the King of Clay, two of them on Rafa’s favourite surface.

It’s safe to say that Great Britain will never have as magnificent a champion on the international stage.

Murray dragged his country to its first Davis Cup trophy in 79 years thanks to eight singles wins and one magnificent lob.

Then there’s the two Olympic singles gold medals he delivered at the expense of Roger Federer (2012) and Juan Martin del Potro (2016).

Remember that he did all that and voted for Scottish independence!

Apart from his trophies, athleticism, anticipation, returns, feel and one of the sweetest two-handed backhands we have seen, the tennis world will miss his courage. His competitiveness on court is of course otherworldly.

However, his bravery to speak freely about important issues like equal pay for women players and the importance of anti-doping has inspired many, and hopefully encouraged the sport to keep improving.

In the final summation, Murray will be thought of as a player who gave everything to make the most of the talents he was blessed with.

His charity work and support for the right causes raise him above the level of ‘just’ a great sportsman.

I did an Australian Open preview earlier this week on RTÉ 2FM’s Game On alongside Conor Niland, Ireland’s greatest ever player and sadly no stranger to a problematic hip. When asked how long it would take for Great Britain to find another Andy Murray, Niland was clear.

“It’s not even a once in a generation. It’s once in a hundred years. Two Wimbledons, two Olympics, US Open, number one in the world, Davis Cup…he’s done it all.”

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