Tennis news - Andy Murray's bittersweet goodbye: The work ethic that made him accelerated his demise
Andy Murray's premature retirement has brought plenty of plaudits, but it was also his desire to be his sport's number one that cut him down in his prime, writes Marcus Foley.
Given what had gone before, the idea of Andy Murray competing at the Australian Open in 2019 remained preposterous as the three-time Grand Slam champion made his way out on to court in Melbourne on Monday to face Roberto Bautista Agut.
He had zero right to compete against a player who beat Stanislas Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych as he won the Qatar Open tune-up event earlier this month and, stylistically speaking, was a nightmare proposition for Murray, considering his work-rate and shot-making ability.
This was supposed to be a mismatch, a weary Murray going toe-to-toe with a tuned up, elite player for over four hours. But Murray hobbed back from 2-0 down to force a deciding set despite battling a chronic hip issue so debilitating that putting on shoes and socks are no longer simple tasks.
And yet, double Olympic gold medal winner Murray pushed the Tour’s in-form player, Bautista Agut all the way, despite as Murray revealed post-match enduring near-constant pain. The constant pain did not dim Murray’s desire to return to Melbourne, with the five-time Australian Open finalist leaving the door ajar to a return to Melbourne Park in 2020. Another preposterous proposition yet one that can’t be ruled out.
“Maybe I’ll see you (the Melbourne crowd) again,” the 31-year-old told former coach Mark Petchey live on Eurosport.
“I’ll do everything possible to try.
“If I’m going to go again I’ll have to have a big operation and there’s no guarantee I could come back from it, but I’ll give it my best shot."
Preposterous but, given it is Murray, wholly credible too. The 31-year-old Scotsman has built a career on indefatigable hard work married with exceptional talent. And here was the pure embodiment of that ethos. Yet, the harsh reality is that this could very well be the last time Murray plays professional tennis.
One suspects that his drive to be the best also hastened his downfall, a cruel and bitter twist to a gilded career.
For here is the dichotomy that is Murray – his dogmatic desire to compete and for self-improvement has driven him to heights that no other modern male British player can lay a glove on; however perhaps that work ethic, the sacrifices he made in the pursuit of self-improvement, has worn his body down to cut his career prematurely short.
And alas for Murray, all the hard work in the world cannot defy injury, particularly the sort of chronic injury he is suffering from, it does not discriminate and does not take into account talent or desire. Yet he almost defied it against Bautista Agut. Murray dragged his talent to the fore by pure force of will and he imparted every sinew into a performance that defied logic.
However, force of will can only take Murray so far now. The 31-year-old will decide upon retirement in the coming weeks. Whatever happens Murray’s legacy is that of an all-time great, a legacy that he further admonished on Monday.