Right, it’s time we all stop asking whether Sir Andy Murray still has what it takes to compete at the highest level. No more “Why are you still playing?” comments or “When will you call it a day?” questions. If anyone needed proof – and most did – that Murray really is back then you have it now. His first round thriller against US Open #3 seed and world #3 Stefanos Tsitsipas is all the proof you need. It wasn’t just that he took the Greek the distance, it was the manner in which he did it. Big serving, aggressive forehands, strong returns and seamless forays into the net to finish points. Tsitsipas wasn’t at his best and neither was Murray, but there were times when he wasn’t far off. With tennis like that still in his locker, Murray looks ready to rise once more. That certainly hasn’t always been the case though.
Years of Anguish and Stop-start Returns Finally Appear to be Behind Murray Now
Since his heart-breaking press conference at the Australian Open in 2019 none of us, not even Murray himself, knew if he’d ever be back on a tennis court again. A chronic hip issue had left him hobbled in every day life, let alone out on the tennis court. His journey since then has been nothing short of remarkable. A hip resurfacing undertaken as a last resort to try and resurrect his career appeared to pay dividends when he returned to the ATP tour. He then lifted a doubles title at Queens with tour veteran Feliciano Lopez, adding fuel to the fire that he could come back. Yet more hope followed when a singles title followed soon after in Antwerp. However, Murray’s rollercoaster ride of a return to tennis was far from over.
A bone spurt resulting from his hip surgery left him in discomfort and struggling to move the way he wanted to. That issue was then quickly followed by a groin injury that refused to go away. All the while Murray remained adamant that all he needed was matches under his belt for his body to begin cooperating. However, even the biggest of believers were starting to doubt that would be the case. A five set marathon against Yoshito Nishioka in which Murray look tired and laboured did little to ease the fears of his fans. Then, when he pulled the plug on the rest of his 2020 season many of us thought the end might be drawing near. Oh how wrong we were.
Taking Tsitsipas the Distance is All the Evidence We Need
There was a moment in the match against Tsitsipas where it became clear he was back. Leading 3-1 but facing break point in the third set, Murray played a great point to keep his break alive. He followed it up with a huge cry of “Come on Andy, let’s go!”. What made the cry significant is that it wasn’t intended as self-encouragement but rather as self-affirmation. He believed he had it in him to keep going and win the match. There wasn’t a shadow of a doubt in his mind that he could do this. Many may have doubted him before. However, after the performance he put in on Monday in Flushing Meadows, I would be surprised if there are many left who doubt him now.
It wasn’t a clean and polished performance. Lapses of concentration (and shoe malfunctions) cost him a comfortable straight sets win, a win he surely feels he should have. Nonetheless, what matters is that the tennis needed to beat the best in the game is still there. Nobody on the men’s tour has won more matches this year than Tsitsipas. He has undoubtedly been one of the best players on the ATP circuit this year. For large chunks of his match against Murray though, the Greek phenom played second fiddle.
Not Perfect Andy Murray but Near Enough
Murray being the perfectionist he is likely won’t be happy with the end result. However, with time he will come to understand the significance of his performance both for him and for us as his fans. Wasted set points in the second set and a shocking fourth set will upset him. However, he could have won the match comfortably. In fact, he was one good serve away from doing exactly that. Murray will take a lot of confidence from this match. It will surely bolster his belief that he can put together a good run tin Grand Slams and contend for major titles in the near future. He’s certainly done exactly that in the past playing at a level he has shown he still has now. The Scottish sensation never gave up and now it’s time for us to lean in and lend our trust to him again. He may not be at the top again yet, but Murray looks ready to rise once more and bring us the brilliant tennis and never-ending heart that made so many fall in love with him in the first place. That in itself is a huge win for the tennis world.
Main Photo from Getty.