The rate Andy Murray is going he might just become Britain’s greatest ever sportsman, according to his best mate Ross Hutchins.
Murray swept past 105th-ranked David Goffin to make the second round of Wimbledon, a very different kind of pressure to his previous match on these manicured lawns when he became the first British winner for 77 years.
This afternoon he will face Slovenian Blaz Rola, ranked 92, though it was during the French Open earlier this month that Hutchins really started thinking about Murray’s stellar career when the Scot made his 14th grand slam semi-final.
“That’s an outrageous stat, only just turning 27 years old and being able to say you’ve been in 14 grand slam semis, appeared in six finals, won two, and he's got an Olympic gold medal and silver,” he said.
“You can’t just wave around these stats willy-nilly, these are unbelievable stats and the fact that Andy has done that, with the mental strength and determination it takes, he deserves all the credit he gets.”
Hutchins knows all about mental fortitude, playing with cancer in his body in 2012, taking 2013 off as he battled the illness, then returning this season to resume his blossoming partnership with Colin Fleming, taking on 16th seeds Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and David Marrero of Spain in their first round.
But while Murray’s mate has had his fair share of the headlines in the past two seasons, the 29-year-old says the 2012 US Open champion and 2013 Wimbledon winner merits the highest of praise.
“He deserves people to talk about him in the higher echelons of being possibly our greatest sportsman ever, in a way, because it’s an individual sport,” said Hutchins.
“There’s no reason not to put him in that category.”
Murray has proved over the last few seasons he can stand shoulder to shoulder with Serbian Novak Djokovic, Spaniard Rafael Nadal and Swiss Roger Federer.
No wonder Hutchins is excited to see Murray back at Wimbledon again, hoping, like around 60 million other Brits, that he can repeat his heroics of 2013.
“Everyone’s looking forward to seeing what he can do this year and seeing if he can come close to matching the incredible feat of last year,” said Hutchins.
“He’s one of the top four players in the world over the last five years. When you’re that good and if you’re able to get through the first week then it’s anyone’s game.”
However, many hurdles lie in wait. Rola, 23, broke into the top 100 for the first time in his career last month and should Murray progress he could face 27th seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the third round, another likely test.
Title rival Djokovic, who Murray beat in last year’s decider, sailed through his first round encounter with Ukraine’s Andrey Golubev in under 90 minutes, he plays experienced Czech campaigner Radek Stepanek today.
Meanwhile, Tim Henman has urged Murray work hard to ensure continuity with his coaching team following his appointment of former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo.
"I think it's certainly an interesting choice," he said.
"I think the timing of it is not that straightforward, coming in at this time of year, trying to build that relationship when the eyes of the world are on them both.
"But I certainly do hope it works, because the continuity for him is really important, so I think they should stick together for a good while now.
"Chopping and changing I don't think is so good for him in the long-run, so fingers crossed it works out well."
© Sportsbeat 2014