Andy Murray; Playing for History

Andy Murray “has just turned twenty-nine; he may have several years left as a top player, but he has neither the game nor the time to join the ranks of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic in the conversation about the greatest player ever. He is no longer playing for history.”

The above comment cropped up in a New Yorker article about a week ago and it got me thinking.  I’ve always been a big fan of Murray so perhaps I’m a little biased but is that totally fair? Can he still be a part of the ‘greatest of all time’ conversation?

Perhaps not, after all he only (only) has two Grand Slam titles to his name, with a solitary Wimbledon crown to go with his US Open trophy. However, he’s also got an Olympic gold medal so a career Golden Slam is not beyond the realms of possibility.  Roger Federer hasn’t managed that and the Olympics in Rio is his last shot, the same goes for Novak Djokovic I’d imagine (he’ll be 33 by the time the 2020 Summer Games rolls around, so he could be a title contender then if he misses out this year but it would be less likely).  The Serb is also still seeking a maiden French Open title but that could all change later this week.

Then again it could all change for Murray as well as he’s safely through to the semi finals at the time of writing, and he overcame Djokovic in the Rome Masters recently so we know he can down his nemesis on clay.

As far as I’m aware only two guys have managed a career Golden Slam – Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal.  Pete Sampras didn’t do it, for example, but we can’t go back too far as tennis only returned to the Olympics in 1988 after an 84-year absence.

So no, maybe Murray can’t join the greatest ever conversation unless he wins maybe four or five more majors – but that isn’t so farfetched.  The world number two saw his 2014 campaign wrecked by a back injury and last year he put a lot in to Great Britain’s Davis Cup triumph, probably at the expense of his own individual aspirations.  Meanwhile, Djokovic has been fairly lucky on the injury front throughout his career, but what if he gets taken out for a significant amount of time and during that period Murray cleans up?  No one will remember Djokovic was missing or struggling with injury at any given moment in the long-term, just as people are already forgetting Murray was plagued with niggling problems for around 18 months in the very recent past. If Djokovic doesn’t get injured the pendulum could still swing the other way, although he does seem to have been vaccinated against a dip in form – the man’s more consistent than a metronome.  Murray, on the other hand, has always struggled for consistency… but who is to say he won’t crack that puzzle at some point in the near future?

If Murray does win a title at Roland-Garros and finally grab that elusive Australian Open crown, who knows where the tennis historians will place him in the all-time list?  He’d have to be top 10, especially given the era he’s playing in.

For the moment it is premature – potentially even flippant – to say Murray is no longer playing for history.  He could yet become the only British male in the Open Era to claim a French Open crown, or an Australian Open trophy for that matter.  Maybe on a global level that isn’t such a big deal but when you consider he’s from a country where outdoor tennis is possible for about 2% of the year – that’s no minor achievement.   Besides, every Grand Slam win is an historic moment, whether it happens to be a first, third or 17th for any particular player.

To say he hasn’t got the game… well, that’s subjective. Clearly I think he has, and the way he’s managed to turn himself into one of the game’s most feared players on clay, having been fairly average on the dirt at best for years, is pretty impressive.

One line I did quite like in the New Yorker article (the whole thing is a good read regardless of whether or not you agree with it but anyway) was “Murray is a walking existential crisis”.  Because for the moment; hell to Andy Murray is other people, or at least one other person – Novak Djokovic.

You can read the New Yorker article ‘Andy Murray Versus the French’ here.

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