“Was 2021 a good season for Andy Murray?”
If you’re reading this as an Andy Murray fan, many of you are probably left clambering for an answer besides “… Sort of?”.
We’re here to offer you a definitive review of Murray’s season so that you can answer this question with confidence!
… Sort of…
Andy Murray in 2021
Early Comeback (Jan-May): Mixed Success and Groin Injury
2020 was underwhelming for Murray and was deservedly short-lived. He ended his season in October off the back of three consecutive defeats, all in straight sets, with two very discouraging losses to Stan Wawrinka and Felix Auger-Aliassime providing the salt in the wound.
Expectations were low at the start of 2021 so Murray accordingly booked himself into a Challenger in Biella. He hit the the ground running, defeating four top-250 players in a row and just misseing out on the title to Illya Marchenko.
So far, so impressive for the former world #1!
It was time to step it up to tour-level tournaments; or so he thought. Murray showed plenty of fight against Egor Gerasimov in Montpellier but narrowly missed out on the first set before falling away in the second. In Rotterdam, Murray showed the same competitive spirit against Andrey Rublev (then #8 in the world) – a double fault led to the crucial break and, again, he fell away in the second set.
Signs of life but something was clearly wrong, large dips in form costing him heavily in matches. Murray took the next couple of months off to assess a groin injury.
Grass Season (Jun-Jul): Vintage Highs and Agonizing Lows
With the benefit of hindsight, Murray’s time at Queen’s Club went as expected.
He rolled against Benoit Paire, who was struggling with his form, and was fairly easily served off court by the top seed, Matteo Berrettini (the Italian went on to win the tournament and make the final at Wimbledon so nothing shocking really).
Then Wimbledon was upon us in a flash.
Murray was as steely and determined as ever, beating Nikoloz Basilashvili and Oscar Otte in thrilling matches. These wins all but confirmed Murray’s fight and movement were up to scratch, the Scot digging out vintage plays in some of the tenser moments.
Unfortunately, everything came crashing back to reality in the next match.
Denis Shapovalov handed Murray his most one-sided defeat at Wimbledon, sending him packing with only eight games in hand. The movement wasn’t compromised, the serving was still decent – Murray fans started writing the obituaries, the two-time champ was done.
The beauty of hindsight again, however – the eventual semifinalist completely trumped Murray’s counterpunching tactics, a bad match-up with the Canadian in untouchable form.
There was plenty of heart to take from Murray’s appearance at SW19… Onwards and upwards!
American Hard-Court Swing (Aug-Sept): One Gear Missing
Murray returned to the tour a month and a half later for the American hard-court swing.
He defeated Richard Gasquet and an ailing Noah Rubin but lost to Hubert Hurkacz and Frances Tiafoe. In both of his losses, Murray played some quality tennis but couldn’t convert set points. Murray was showing he could keep up with top-ranked players for a while but hadn’t proven he had that next level required to keep i tup.
Cue an infamous US Open first-round against Stefanos Tsitsipas to dispel any non-believers. Murray played the match of his season so far, sodden shoes and toilet breaks decorating an enthralling match. It went to five sets but Murray lost by a whisker, failing to convert two crucial set points in the second set.
Murray followed up New York with trips to Metz and San Diego. Such a high level led Murray to a comeback win over Ugo Humbert and comfortable wins over Denis Kudla and Vasek Pospisil but, again, he lost tight sets to top-20 players in Hubert Hurkacz and Casper Ruud.
Murray’s top level was there – he just wasn’t peaking for long enough to beat the best in the world.
End of Season (Oct-Nov): Murray Hits Top Form but No Consistency
The last two months of the season arrived and so too did Murray’s best.
- At Indian Wells, Murray was the better player against Carlos Alcaraz, crowning his win with an underarm serve ace. Though his match was spotty against Alexander Zverev, he showed his low-quality tennis was at a higher level than it had been at Wimbledon.
- In Antwerp, Murray got his revenge over Tiafoe, winning the longest three-set match of his career over three tiebreaks. Again, he was patchy against Diego Schwartzman but was able to keep the scoreline very close.
- In Vienna, Murray finally beat Hubert Hurkacz, his first top-10 win of the season. His loss to Alcaraz in the following round was a little less encouraging but, realistically, Alcaraz was also playing like a top-10 player.
- Was there an event on in between Vienna and Stockholm? Okay, Murray’s loss to Dominik Koepfer at the Paris Masters was one to forget but, at the very least, this reaffirmed Murray’s lowest level was incredibly competitive.
- Going out on a high – in Stockholm, Murray backed up his win over Hurkacz with another top-10 win against Jannik Sinner, likely his highest level match of the season. He went on to lose a close match to the eventual champion, Tommy Paul.
The only problem for Murray? He was winning big matches but couldn’t back those wins up, never winning more than three matches in a row at tour-level for the entirety of the season.
Was 2021 a good season for Andy Murray?
The first few months of the season were asterisked with an ongoing injury – though there was some success, it wasn’t particularly reflective of Murray’s fitness.
From the grass season onwards, scrutiny of Murray is justified.
His season was littered with solid wins against solid opponents going 14-5 against players ranked outside the top-20 after coming back to the tour.
It was how he dealt with the best in the world that leaves a last lasting impression, losing eight consecutive matches to top-20 players up until Vienna. There’s no doubt he was on an upward trajectory throughout these losses but he couldn’t quite put it together for an entire match – until he broke through against Hurkacz and Sinner.
He hasn’t been held back by injury in months and his best tennis is clearly still there, work on the serve paying off in spades.
There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding Murray at the start of the season and he’s probably blown the realist’s expectations out of the water with his final few months of the season.
For the realists, it was a good season.
Andy Murray is a dreamer, however, and so are many of his fans.
For the dreamers, it was progress.
Main Photo from Getty.