Andy Murray is playing in the round of 16 at the Australian Open on Saturday against the Spaniard Roberto Bautista. At 35, the Scot defies time to offer his fans a new epic of Homeric matches, recalling that he was among the greats of the 2010 decade.
In January 2019, Andy Murray moved the tennis world. In tears during a press conference preceding the Australian Open, he had declared that retirement was near, that the Australian Major could be his last tournament because the hip pain was too bad.
Four years later, at 35, the Scotsman is still there. At the same Australian Open, he is able to string together two five-set matches in three days for a total of 10 hours and 34 minutes – more time than it takes for some to win a tournament. His secret? A now metallic hip, a steel mind and a stainless passion.
“Cyborg” Murray has already offered the scalp of 14e World, the Italian Matteo Berrettini in the first round then that of the local Thanasi Kokkinakis. In a match of madness, concluded at 4:05 am, the Scotsman found the strength to go up the Australian, saving a match point. On Saturday, he will face the Spaniard Roberto Bautista (25th) for a place in the round of 16.
January 11, 2019: Andy Murray announces, in tears, that the Australian Open may be the last tournament of his career.
January 19, 2023: After beating Matteo Berrettini, Murray qualifies for the third round of the Australian Open having played 10:34 in three days. pic.twitter.com/cbyum8LKDA
— Quentin Moynet (@QuentinMoynet) January 19, 2023
His performance against Thanasi Kokkinakis gave him a record: with 11 wins after being down two sets to nothing, he is quite simply the tennis player who has achieved this “comeback” the most in history.
But how did he do it? If the question is whispered on everyone’s lips, the answer that comes out of his mouth is frank, simple and clear: “I relied on my experience, my love of the game and of competition”, he declared to the microphone after the game. “It was amazing, he served very well, but I played better and better and…yes, I have a big heart.”
In the tennis pantheon alongside Djokovic, Nadal and Federer
A big heart that won over tennis fans during a career that began on the ATP circuit in 2005. He quickly won his first titles and pushed the doors of the world top 10 in 2007.
Alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, he will write the most beautiful pages of modern tennis, even transforming the expression “Big Three” (the three best) into “Big four” (the four…). At the height of the confrontation between the three sacred monsters, he managed to clinch eight Grand Slam finals and win three (US Open 2012 and Wimbledon 2013 and 2016). He is also the one who finally places Great Britain at the top of tennis: the first Briton to win a Grand Slam for men since 1936 and in 2015 guides the kingdom to its first Davis Cup since that same year.
The peak of his career was in 2016: in addition to his success at Wimbledon, he became the first player in history to retain an Olympic title and ended the year world number 1, with 90% of victories over the ‘calendar year. The British Crown even announces his future ennoblement on December 30.
“This guy is one of the great players of our time that we don’t talk about enough because of what the other big three (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) have achieved, but he’s a legend,” enthused John McEnroe became a consultant for Eurosport, during Sir Andy’s feat at the Australian Open.
Grumpy but funny, cash and committed
Underestimated the place of Andy Murray in tennis? Maybe… And no doubt the fault of a badly licked, grumpy bear side, which could put off more than one tennis fan before scratching under the shell. Before facing him in Melbourne, Thanasi Kokkinakis described the paradox perfectly: “I remember watching his matches when I was younger thinking that this guy always looked in a bad mood, that he must be miserable. Then when you get to know him, you realize he’s a great guy and a great guy,” he explained.
He again demonstrated his grumpy side during his match. What upset him the most during his duel against Kokkinakis was the regulatory ban on going to the bathroom when he needed it: “I understand the rules, but it’s three in the morning, I drank all day…”, he explained to the referee from his bench during a change of side, while he is one of the players who contributed to the establishment of this ruler. Far from smooth, he does not hesitate to question the rules and practices of his often conservative discipline. About his ultra-late end to the game, Andy Murray said: “I don’t understand who benefits”, saying he only thinks of “one thing, “going to bed”.
Because Andy Murray is also a certain lightness and a well-felt irony, capable of laughing at himself. When asked post-match after his statement about his big heart if “everything is great at home?” He replies tongue-in-cheek that “[sa] wife wouldn’t agree,” eliciting laughter from the audience.
Arthur Ashe Prize in 2014 and 2022
The big-hearted Scotsman also knows how to be much more serious, especially when it comes to defending the causes close to his heart, starting with feminism. He rose to prominence in 2014 for choosing Amélie Mauresmo as coach, becoming one of the few male players to choose a woman for the position.
And he made a specialty of correcting commentators and his interviewers when they had the audacity to forget that a record had already been set by women. In 2016, after his second Olympic title, he corrected a BBC journalist who incorrectly presented him as the first person to win two gold medals in tennis: “Well, [la première personne] to defend the singles title,” Murray said. “I think Venus and Serena [Williams, NDLR] have won four each, but have never defended a singles title before.”
Andy Murray also multiplies charity events. In December 2022, he received the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for the second time, in recognition of his support for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. The Scottish tennis player had already been awarded the Arthur Ashe Prize in 2014 for having played gala matches to support Ross Hutchins then Élena Baltacha, both suffering from cancer. He is also a UNICEF ambassador.
On the court, the continuation of the Australian Open promises to be complicated for Sir Andy. His recovery will necessarily have been cut short due to the late end of his match. “It’s going to be a game that people will talk about for a long time, but it’s also a game that greatly affects Andy’s chances of going further in the tournament,” said John McEnroe. This kind of situation has happened before and it has affected players every time. In what other sport – World Cup, American football or NBA – do they play until four in the morning? “asked the legend. But with a valiant heart, nothing is impossible.