Never write off Sir Andy Murray

Andy Murray (Image: ATP)

Athletes knows their own body, be it in good or bad shape. Perhaps, that is the reason why the tennis fraternity – fans and players included – is shedding tears for Sir Andy Murray. He hobbled off the court after an agonising loss to Tomas Machac in the third round of the Miami Open, a high-profile event on the ATP Tour.

“The end is nigh” is an old saying. In the case of Murray, he knows that his own tennis journey is coming to a close. For a man who bounced back after a major hip surgery – in medical jargon known as ‘reshaping the hip’ – over five years back, the comeback was laced with emotions.
People loved the champion for his fighting spirit. After all, the planned surgery came after years of suffering excruciating pain. It was Dennis Lille-type resilience, an inner will to again romance the racquet sport which had brought him name and fame.

Frankly speaking, as much as tennis is about raking in the megabucks — Pound Sterling, US Dollars or Euros – characters like Murray are there for the love and passion. He has enjoyed his tennis career, fully aware that the best is behind him. The heart says “go on, keep playing,” but the body is not always willing to cooperate. The inner steel, no reference to what all medical implants he may have had in ‘hip resurfacing’, has always been there.

Yet, in Miami, when Murray declared that he would be out for a long phase due to a major ankle injury, it was gut wrenching. When an athlete says that “he is looking forward to the end now”, it sounds crazy. His tennis world is shattered. He knows this is likely his last year on the tour.

Going back to medical science, he has major issues with the ankle. “Yesterday (Monday) towards the end of my match in Miami I suffered a full rupture of my ATFL and near full thickness rupture of my CFL,” Murray posted on Instagram. “I will see an ankle specialist when I return home to determine next steps.”

The ATFL is the Anterior Talo-Fibula ligament in the ankle, one of the weakest parts. If it is under trauma, the pain will be terrible. At the same time, a rupture of the CFL – calcaneofibular ligament – in the same ankle means there are complex medical issues to treat and heal. Anyone who has studied human physiology even at a basis level in school will know the ankles and knees take most of the body weight. To see Murray pushing his soul, spirit, mind and body at the age of nearly 37 has been magical.

Viewed from beyond the tramlines, the magical shots which a tennis superstar conjures up looks dazzling. Yet, what the fans and critics do not know is the way the body is being pounded, with hard courts causing maximum damage.
Murray has been phenomenal. He belongs to the Big 4. Roger Federer retired in 2022, and Rafael Nadal seems like the old car needing frequent visits to the garage. If and when Nadal will return is a debate which has become a joke for some. His heart longs for a final fling on clay at the French Open and then the Paris Olympics. Nadal has been training hard but each time he signs up for a big event, he is not sure if his body will last.


Going back to injuries, Federer underwent multiple knee surgeries before calling it quits in 2022. He has moved on, become a celebrity, making appearances at charity shows as well as big events where he is seen with the ‘crème de la crème’ of the glamour world.
Nadal is unsure, perhaps sulking. He took the whole of 2023 off, thinking 2024 would be kind. No, it has been painful, physically and mentally. The worst scenario is if he plays again and gets injured. Fear? Yes, psychological as well as physiological.
But let’s go back to the magic which Murray created. A man loved by family and fans, a man who was never arrogant but courteous, he produced some sublime stuff on grass courts. He lost the Wimbledon final in 2012 in four sets to Federer at The Championships in the famous suburb of London.

But when Andy Murray was back at the same venue to play in the Olympics on grass at Wimbledon, four weeks hence, it was an adrenaline-fuelled display. The tapestry of tennis he produced was genius as he dismantled the same Federer in the final to win the gold medal. The same Centre Court where Murray had lost weeks earlier saw him bounce back to kiss glory.

If 2012 had been kind to Murray vis a vis an Olympic medal, he won Wimbledon in 2013. For Britons, who had lived on the hype of Tim Henman, Murray was the answer to their prayers. He became an icon, a hero in Britain where, from commoners to royalty, he was feted. Awards, accolades, a Royal Mail stamp, Murray had it all coming.

To have kept that going was crazy, as he won a second Wimbledon in 2016 and topped it with another Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro that same year. Those triumphs became larger than life in many ways.
The mind was willing and the body unwilling, when Murray went to Tokyo for an Olympic three-peat. A loss in the quarter-finals was no disgrace. For the tennis ace who has won three Grand Slam titles, including one across the Atlantic at the US Open, the latest injury update is painful.

“I am looking forward to the end now, give my best the next few months and get to be at home with my family,” Murray said on Tuesday. Its no secret that he still wanted to play Wimbledon and the Paris Olympics. That’s why he had signed up even for doubles with Seb Korda, before withdrawing in Miami.

Murray played decent tennis in Miami but once he rolled his ankle, hope made way for dismay. “I am proud of myself because its extremely difficult to do what I’m doing with the issue I have,” he said. “To be still able to compete with these guys is a credit to myself and the work I’ve put in to keep myself in this position.”

His treatment, rest, rehab and recovery will take long. Will Murray attempt a last fling at the Paris Olympics? It’s tough but not impossible. Let’s not go by MRI scan reports and so on. If Murray has to heal and recover, he will go full tilt – that’s his mindset. He has never given up, so the end he is talking of could be postponed. After all, he has romanced the tennis programme at the Olympics so beautifully.

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