Andy Murray has claimed he should not be judged by the same standards as the peak of his career now he has a metal hip. But the three-time Grand Slam champion insisted his current struggle for form will not “damage his legacy” in the sport. “A couple of losses now won’t change what I have achieved throughout my career,” stated the Scot.
The world No. 49 lost his fourth consecutive first-round match of the year 7-5 6-4 to Czech Machac in Marseille – his sixth defeat in a row dating back to October. After his previous loss to Benoit Paire in Montpellier, a BBC columnist praised Murray’s career but posed the question: “At what point does bravely soldiering on start to damage his legacy?”
The Scot responded on social media last week to say: “Most people would quit and give up in my situation right now. But I’m not most people and my mind works differently. I won’t quit.” And speaking for the first time, the former world No. 1 admitted he is no longer at the peak of his powers but is still playing because he loves the game.
“I wasn’t mad about the article,” he said. “I didn’t read it and was screaming at my phone. I was just a little bit disappointed. People who follow tennis and know my journey, I would hope would understand how difficult it is to do what I am doing with the issue that I have with my hip. It has not really been done in any other sport.
“I hope more players are able to play with an injury like this and surgery like this but it is also extremely difficult. The easy thing for me to do would have been to stop when I had the operation and said: ‘I am not going to play anymore’. My feeling is that what I am doing now is that I am playing because I love the game.
“I still really enjoy the practising and the training and the travelling. Right now, the competing is difficult for sure. Yeah I was just a little bit disappointed that somehow how I am playing right now and what I am doing just now is affecting my career. I am in a totally different place than I was in 2016.
“A couple of losses now won’t change what I have achieved throughout my career. I know the guy who did it for a very long time and just didn’t agree that somehow by competing now was affecting somehow what I achieved when I was fit and healthy and had two hips.”
Murray was at the peak of his powers in 2016 when he won Wimbledon and the Olympics for the second time and then won five consecutive tournaments, including beating Novak Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals, to finish the year as world No. 1. He turns 37 in May and admitted before his first event of the year in Brisbane: “If things are going well, I’d love to keep going. But if they’re not, and I’m not enjoying it, it could be the last year, yes.”
After losing in the first round of the Australian Open, he admitted it was a “definite possibility that will be the last time I play here” before adding: “I have an idea of what I would probably like to finish playing. Yeah, so much of that depends on how you’re playing. The time frame for that narrows when you play and have results like today.”
Wimbledon, the Paris Olympics or the US Open are possible farewells but Murray is far keener on planning how to get his game back in shape and start winning again. From his early fitness battles earlier to losing his first four Grand Slam finals to becoming the best player in the world with three Majors and two Olympic golds and his two hip surgeries, his story continues.
And he has earned that right. After all these years of emotional investment in his career, he is still the British player everyone wants to see and wants to win. And after all this time, he still hates to lose. Murray is next scheduled to play at the Qatar Open in Doha in the week beginning February 19 but he suggested he could play second-tier Challenger events to rebuild his confidence.
He won at Surbiton and Nottingham last summer to get ready for Wimbledon. “The only way is to be on the match court and try and find ways to win some matches,” he said. “You can try to do it on the practice court as well but what happens on the practice court doesn’t always translate into matches.
“My coach in 2016 (Ivan Lendl) when I finished No. 1 in the world, he told me he thinks I won two or three practice sets in the whole year and this year I have won almost every practice set I have played and I cannot win a match on the court. It doesn’t always translate.
“You need to perform when you are competing in the matches and in the competitions. That is what matters – not how well someone plays in practice. You need to get on the match court and try and find a way through it. Maybe dropping down a level, playing Challengers to build confidence that way as well.”