'Britain’s greatest tennis player ever' prepares to bow out
Tennis

'Britain’s greatest tennis player ever' prepares to bow out

11 January 2019 / 09:29

Sir Andy Murray's place in the pantheon of British sport has been long secure - whatever the next few days, weeks or months have in store.

For those who have watched his career since 2005, when he pushed former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian the distance on his All England Club debut, the last 18 months have been difficult.

It seemed a long time since those giddy and heady days when in the space of a few months, Murray inspired Great Britain win the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936, regained his Wimbledon title and became the first man to defend an Olympic men’s singles title in Rio, beating Juan Martin Del Potro in an epic final.

“He’s been my biggest role model out of any tennis player,” said new British number one Kyle Edmund.


 

“He’s Britain’s greatest tennis player ever and you could say maybe Britain’s best sportsman ever.

“To be able to have had the experiences that I’ve had with him and memories in terms of training with him, and getting to know him personally and seeing what he’s done on the court and achieved, he’s definitely helped my career.

“It’s obviously not nice to read that he’s going to be retiring at some point but, at the same time, it’s a nice way to reflect his career, knowing that he’s going to be done, and seeing what he’s achieved. It’s been amazing.”

For more than a decade, since winning his first ATP Tour event in 2006, and succeeding Tim Henman as British number one, Murray has been the biggest name in British sport.

Three times the public has voted him sports personality of the year and he was knighted in 2017 – capping off a memorable year that also saw him became world number one.

2012 will always be a year that defines British sport and it will Murray too.


Andy Murray

 

He became the first home player since Bunny Austin in 1938 to make the Wimbledon final – but lost to Roger Federer in four sets

A few weeks later, he reversed that defeat in stunning style to win Olympic men’s singles gold. He would also win mixed doubles silver with Laura Robson a few hours later.

And then came the US Open – the first of three Grand Slam victories, along with his Wimbledon successes in 2013 and 2016.

Sir Hugh Robertson, chairman of the British Olympic Association, summed up Murray's contribution to British sport, saying: “As a two-time gold medalist, Andy Murray is one of this country’s greatest Olympians.

“He has always totally embraced being a member of Team GB helping and inspired other athletes, and been a fabulous ambassador for Olympic sport.”

Despite competing in the same era as three of the greatest players ever – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – Murray always set an example, both on and off the court.

“There have been so many examples of when he has stood up for us – not just for women’s tennis but women in general,” said Johanna Konta, the British women’s number one.

Andy Murray

“He has also been blessed with two daughters and I think he’s grown up with a really strong female role model with his mum and now his wife is also a strong character, so he is surrounded by great, strong women.

“He has put that through in the way he has voiced his opinions and the way he has tackled some questions and issues that have arisen, and I think everybody has always been very appreciative of him.”

Billy Jean King praised him as a champion ‘on and off the court’ while fellow players were quick to add their support.

World number two Nadal, who duelled with Murray 24 times, said: "It was great to play against you all these years. Good luck with everything!"

Del Potro, who has also struggled with injuries and shared that memorable Olympic final with Murray in Rio, urged him to ‘keep fighting’.

“Please don’t stop trying,” he said.

“I can imagine your pain and sadness. I hope you can overcome this. You deserve to retire on your own terms, whenever that happens.

“We love you Andy Murray and we want to see you happy and doing well.”

Meanwhile, Grigor Dimitrov, who was bested by Murray in the finals of both the Brisbane international and China Open in 2013 and 2016 respectively, said: “Tennis will come to an end for us all but the friendships will last a lifetime.

“What you’ve done for the sport will live on forever. I’m hoping for a strong and healthy finish for you, my friend.”


Andy Murray

 

And former world number one Andy Roddick, who was defeated by Murray in the 2009 Qatar Open final, said: “Absolute legend. Short list of best tacticians in history. Unreal results in a brutal eta. Nothing but respect here.

“I hope he can finish strong and healthy.”

Murray’s pride and passion for the Olympics has been obvious since he made his debut at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Caught up in the excitement of the Olympic village, he often refers to his first-round defeat to Yen-hsun Lu as one of the worst of his career.

He put that right in London and Rio, where he also carried the flag into the opening ceremony, a treasured moment in a career of golden memories.

Olympic golf champion Justin Rose was among others supporting Murray today – tweeting simply: ‘legend’.

And on Friday afternoon, the man himself took to Instagram to pay tribute to pay tribute to his mother Judy while also thanking those that had taken the time to pay tribute to his achievements.

Murray said: "Genuinely been very touched by all of the messages and support from everybody today.

"It means a lot and has made me feel much more positive than when I woke this morning.

"Thank you so much."


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