If respect, affection and admiration could win Grand Slam trophies, Tennis Australia’s Andy Murray would now hand over the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup before a ball was hit at the Australian Open.
Since announcing on Friday that he was forced into early retirement due to his chronic hip injury, the reaction of the rest of the world (and not just the sports world) has been like a tidal wave of sympathy and support. Players, politicians, celebrities, fans, sports superheroes – everyone has talked about Murray and every word has praised the Scotsman and his accomplishments.
In the silence of the eve of the first Grand Slam of the year, Murray is the main conversation. Usually, the press and the experts are chattering with title candidates, outsiders and their own supposedly informed views about the potential winners. But not now. Not this time.
A beautiful new tennis world without Murray is just before dawn and is not a pretty sight. Mats Wilander sipped an espresso in the sun and thought about the future. Despite the grief of the situation, he saw a positive side in Murray’s story. “This will take its celebrity to a whole new level,” said Wilander.
“I know that you know about it in the British media, but for the people outside, for other people, they may have just seen this angry guy in court running all the time” . “Shouting – maybe they thought he was a spoiled man brat – but now we know why he swore: it was because it meant so much to him, he’s the most passionate player, more than the Federers and Nadals – he cares so much.
“Do you remember when he cried after the first Wimbledon final with Roger? People started getting it to see how much he loved tennis and how much he cared. But they see him now – he could not even speak on Friday. And he was ready, he knew that he would give this press conference, and he still could not speak.
He loves tennis so much that it means so much to him. This takes his position to a new level. “The only man in Melbourne uninterested in Murray’s physical and emotional wellbeing is Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 22 from Spain. He plays Murray today, and although he does not wish his rival any harm, he must find a way to break away from the opportunity and engage in business trying to win his first round at the Australian Open.
“Andy is one of the best tennis players in history,” said Bautista Agut. “I obviously saw a lot of his games on TV and tried to do things that made him very good on the pitch. I think everyone knows that Andy gives 100 percent each time he goes to court. He has been a fighter throughout his career and I think this game will be the same.