NEW YORK – Away from the box office spotlight, Andy Murray is greeted with awe and a touch of nostalgia every time his name is read. But this isn’t a farewell tour for the 2012 US Open winner.
With a metal hip and near misses with rearview mirror failure, Murray’s body and mind have achieved a rare synergy that leads to this year’s competition. The three-time Grand Slam winner is in the third round of a Grand Slam outside of Wimbledon for the first time since 2017.
“My movement on the court is good at the moment,” Murray said after beating Emilio Nava in the second round on Wednesday. “I feel like it’s not that easy for guys to knock winners past me and I’m defending in the corners a lot better than I was here 12 months ago.
“I don’t have to worry about waking up the next day to something that’s going to really affect me or hinder my tennis.”
The fabulous four Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Murray won every Grand Slam between 2010 and 2013 (their record since the French Open in 2005 is ridiculous and to date has won all but seven Slams).
Despite the control they have over their craft, injuries and age are interrupting big plans – Nadal’s hamartia is his ankle, Federer is fighting back from knee surgery and Djokovic’s attempt to overtake Nadal’s 23 slams has been thwarted by his COVID-19 vaccination stance with special needs. As recently as late 2017 and 2018, it looked like Murray’s chronic hip problems would be insurmountable. At the 2019 Australian Open, a retirement montage was played in his honor at Rod Laver Arena.
That year he underwent a hip replacement procedure with the aim of being able to walk up the stairs and play with his children without pain. Instead, it lengthened his career.
There were times when he resembled the reluctant tennis version of The Fighting Temeraire – another symbol of the end of an era. He has been open about his tennis mortality. After his third-round loss to Denis Shapovalov at Wimbledon 2021, he pondered whether it was worth fighting on. “Is all that training and everything you do in the gym, unless you like to practice and improve your game and get a bunch of tournaments, is it worth all the work you do? ?” he said at the time.
But the hip held up and this year he managed to train consistently. That’s not to say there haven’t been the usual dents and scratches. He pulled an abdominal muscle in the run-up to Wimbledon. He was struggling with cramps here in the US, and after thorough sweat tests and scans there to rule out any underlying cause, it was up to him and his team to optimize his hydration and diet. As well as meeting number 24 Francisco Cerundolo in the first round and promising youngster Nava in the second round, he had to down 1.5 liters of sports drink every 40 minutes at Flushing Meadows.
What surprised Cerundolo was Murray’s ability to read the game. While he might have been a bit slower between points, Murray’s return leg was on point.
“I don’t read every single shot, but once you start playing more matches, [you] Get a little more comfortable with your movement and I feel like I’m moving a lot better now than this time last year,” Murray said after that second-round win over Nava. “I’ve got more games under my Belt so I’m starting to see things a little easier on the field, you know when you combine the two it makes a huge difference to my movement.
There are still memories of Murray, who won three Grand Slams (2012 US Open, 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon), two Olympic gold medals in men’s singles in 2012 and 2016 and reached world No. 1 in 2016. Ivan Lendl is back as his coach, who was in his corner despite all the success. “He’s very aware that if I want to get back to the top of the game, I need to play and play,” Murray said of Lendl this week.
And Murray still occasionally brings frustration towards his team when he sits out. Against Nava, he grew increasingly angry with sluggish spectators trying to find their seats, disrupting the game. He even seemed annoyed with the sun. But that’s all part of what makes him Murray — the man who’s angry one minute, pounding his chest with a clenched fist the next, and sometimes crying.
When Murray won the US Open in 2012, his post-match press conference was crashed by Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Sean Connery to crown Britain’s new sporting star. A decade later with a new hip, Murray is still here, rushing through the tournament and saying goodbye to the young contenders. In terms of sport, he still has goals: he still wants to win four tournaments as a professional in order to reach the 50 mark and is 89 tour matches away from his goal of 800. And in the process he wants to improve his ranking, so he’s a seed for tournaments.
The fire still burns within him and while he will be the underdog against Matteo Berrettini on Friday, don’t mistake this for one last foray into the sun. Looking back on the earlier part of his career, Murray regrets not enjoying the highs anymore. But for all his nostalgia and the constant nagging feeling of how much longer he can hold out, he doesn’t feel like a glorious encore. Instead, he’s pain free and eyeing a deep run here.
“When he was on the pitch he did it really, really well,” Murray said of Berrettini. “I expect it to be very difficult. But if I play well and my returns are right, then I have a good chance.”
https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/34502418/us-open-2022-andy-murray-reached-third-round-call-farewell-tour US Open 2022 – Andy Murray has reached the third round but don’t call it a farewell tour