Late Wednesday, after nearly four hours on-court, Andy Murray pulled off another stunning five-set victory against Oscar Otte. It’s a sight nobody should be taking for granted, with years of conditioning and struggle behind his dogged comeback. Winning against Denis Shapovalov this Friday could be asking too much of the man with the metal hip after such a huge effort to get over the line. But if the two-time champ is fighting fit, however, who knows what could happen?
Whatever happens to Murray this Friday and in the future, his success on the court is finally starting to make an impact on the state of men’s tennis. From 2007 to 2015, the UK’s representation in the top 100 mostly fell solely on Murray’s shoulders–it’s been building for a while, but we are finally starting to see other players establishing themselves at the top of the men’s game.
Let’s take a look at some of those players.
Evans has made his fair share of poor decisions throughout his career. But after almost flushing his career away, he’s finally turned things around. He truly believes in his game and is learning how to maximize his potential–2021 has been a year of firsts for the Brummie.
- First win over a Top 5 player: Evans was on a ten-match losing streak on clay going into the Monte Carlo Masters, where he shocked Novak Djokovic. He beat the Serb in straight sets, getting under the World #1’s skin with his net approaches.
- First ATP title: Evans picked up the first ATP title of his career at the Murray River Open, beating every opponent along the way in straight sets.
- Breakthrough to Top 25: Evans reached a career-high ranking of #25 in June. The ranking’s freeze doesn’t favor Evans so when rankings points go back to normal, he will likely crack the Top 20.
Perhaps a bit of tough love from Murray did the trick as Evans is now playing the best tennis of his career.
I suspect if you’d told Cam Norrie at the start of the year he’d have the third-most wins in 2021 by Wimbledon, even he’d have looked a little shocked. Norrie has taken the world by storm, his laser-like backhand and swinging lefty serve unravelling the games of many of his opponents. Just like Evans, Norrie has checked many accolades off his list in 2021.
- First win over a Top 5 player: Norrie also notched his first Top 5 win, beating Dominic Thiem on clay. Thiem may not be having the best year, but Norrie dropped only five games in beating him, an emphatic win against a quality opponent.
- First ATP 500 final: After reaching the second and third finals of his career in Lyon and Estoril, Norrie went a step further by reaching the final at the Queen’s Club Championships. Obviously he’d like to win a title, but it’s only a matter of time–his run at Queen’s shows he is getting more and more comfortable reaching the final stages of bigger and bigger tournaments.
- Equalled his Grand Slam career wins: Prior to 2021, Norrie had won six total matches in the main draw of Grand Slams. This year alone, he has matched that and will look to carry this momentum forward. A win against Roger Federer at Wimbledon might be asking too much of him but, given his form, it’s not out of the question.
Norrie spoke about how inspiring Murray has been for him and his fellow Brits:
“I practiced with Andy and Evo a lot… It’s great that each of us are pushing each other… It’s just cool for us to have Andy around playing and chatting him, hearing his insights… I think it’s great for the future generations like myself, leading into some of the younger guys, as well.”
Jack Draper looks as though he has plenty of potential. Possessing a brilliant serve and the right attitude, Draper has shown he might have what it takes to make an impact on the tour.
- Draper hadn’t won a match at ATP level prior to arriving at the Queen’s Club Championships last month. There, he made a stunning run to the quarterfinals, defeating Jannik Sinner and Alexander Bublik before falling in straight sets to Norrie.
- At Wimbledon, Draper lost to Novak Djokovic but managed to take the first set. This set showed he could serve well enough to hold his own against the best returner in the world but, more importantly, it showed he was made of stern stuff, saving seven break points along the way. After the match, Draper recognized the improvements he’d need to make in his game and congratulated the World #1, a very mature response in his Grand Slam debut.
Draper is still improving his game yet he has made it clear he can compete with some of the best players in the world. Andy Murray is Draper’s greatest idol, so don’t be surprised if he continues to work incredibly hard to cement a position in the rankings close to Evans and Norrie.
Whatever Happens To Andy Murray, British Men’s Tennis Is Thriving
Murray’s legacy is truly starting to leave its mark on his compatriots. Along with the aforementioned players, Kyle Edmund will hopefully return to full fitness sooner rather than later, Liam Broady has been making waves on the Challenger Tour and Joe Salisbury is undoubtedly one of the world’s best doubles players.
British men’s tennis is in the best place it has been for years. So much of this can be directly attributed to Andy Murray’s (and Jamie Murray’s) success. Wherever Andy Murray goes from here, he has left British tennis in good hands.
Main Photo from Getty.