Icon Murray determined to keep defying his doubters

The two-time Wimbledon winner illustrated all his champion’s instincts in his opening round victory at SW19.

Andy Murray Wimbledon 2021©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

With four injury-maligned seasons disrupting his trophy-laden career, it’s easy for some to forget the accolades Andy Murray has won, that he reached the summit of the sport.

The 34-year-old continues to be written off, the narrative being the Scot’s better days are over.

Not for Andy.

The three-time Grand Slam champion’s dogged determination to overcome hip resurfacing surgery and a multitude of physical issues has gained as much respect from his peers as his on-court heroics. 

“He’s huge in tennis. When I watched his documentary when it came out, I was actually crying,” said Oscar Otte, Murray’s Wimbledon second-round opponent, referring to ‘Andy Murray: Resurfacing,’ which was released by Amazon in 2019.

“It was so emotional and so inspiring. He's just a huge icon in the sport."

“Of course, it's difficult to perform at a high level with surgeries like this, but everybody knows he's one of the best tennis players ever. And when he gets in control of his body, I think everybody knows he can still beat the top guys and go far in tournaments.”

World No.151 Otte, featuring in his first Wimbledon main draw, would have been absorbed in Murray’s opening rollercoaster match on Centre Court.

The 2013 and 2016 champion gave the returning fans an archetypal Murray performance packed with drama, ebbs and flows, alongside some sublime grass court tennis.

In his first singles match at SW19 since 2017, the Scot defied the form book and his injuries to escape 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 against No.24 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili

There was a bit of rust from only 10 previous matches in 2021, surrendering a 5-0 lead and two match points in the third set, before gritting his teeth to march on. 

“It’s been extremely tough to back to this stage. I’ve had such little momentum over these last few years. I just kept trying, kept working hard, doing all the right things to get me back in this position. I feel very lucky I get to do it again,” reflected the current world No.118.

The crowd loved it, Murray grinning in his post-match interview, happy to stubbornly prove his doubters wrong once again. 

“I keep getting asked ‘is this my last Wimbledon, my last match?’ No, I’m going to keep playing. I want to play. I’m enjoying it. I can still play at the highest level. He (Basilashvili) is ranked 28 in the world, I’ve hardly played any matches and I beat him. So, I’ll keep going.” 

Cast you mind back to his pomp and Murray’s matches and major journeys were never smooth. It’s the battle that he’s longed for on the sidelines and the fans helped herald his return to Wimbledon with a cauldron of noise on Centre Court.  

“It’s amazing to be back playing out here on Centre Court again, in such a brilliant atmosphere,” added the wild card. “It’s something I’ve really missed. I realised the last 18 months not to take moments like that for granted.”

The engrained fighting spirit which yielded three majors enabled Murray to hurdle the first round too, it “feels natural now, like it's instinctive” and the Scot is adamant his vast bank of experience in tight moments can prolong his Wimbledon comeback. 

“I dealt with the pressure of the match really well until the end of the third set… I don't think there is many players that would have won that fourth set,” claimed the home talisman, twisting his undulating first round into a positive.

“Having just lost seven games in a row from 5-0 up on Centre Court, a lot of players would have capitulated there, and I did the opposite of that.  

“The headlines of that you have choked, it's one of the worst defeats of your career is what you would have heard after that match had I lost, it’s not easy to turn that round. So I did well considering.”

The grit is there, his game showed flashes of past glories and the love of the sport still burns through. It seems it’s up to Murray what headlines are written this fortnight at the All England Club.