It’s been a while since we hit the center of a Grand Slam weekend and the appearance of Andy Murray in this tournament is a distant memory already.
So the French Open this year came as a shock to the Britons after Murray’s defeat of Stan Wawrinka knocked him out of the tournament on the first day, barely after it had started.
A loss to another three-time Grand Slam champion is not especially worrisome in itself, but that was much of the concern about the manner of his disappointing defeat, in which he was never challenged.
It was the mediocre showing that caused the Scot to be targeted in unprecedented fashion by former major winner and current television analyst Mats Wilander.
Wilander, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, said, “I’m worried about Andy Murray,”
“I’d like to hear from him why he’s out there and giving us a false sense of hope that one day he’ll be back.
I’m still a little frustrated, is it his right to do that and be out there? In reality, why?
I believe Andy Murray needs to stop worrying about himself and begin to think about who he was. Does he have the right to take wildcards away from young players out there?
“It’s hard, for sure, to stop. He’ll hopefully find out why he’s doing it.
It was an interesting, let’s say, view from Wilander of the match and of Murray himself, and there are a few things that his comments pose.
First, to say that Murray has less claim to a wild card than a young player is ridiculous. The Scot is one of the great men’s tennis players of the last decade and a big draw for any event, and his three major titles and previous world ranking mean that in any draw he has earned the right to a spot.
Bear in mind that wildcards are routinely awarded to even less deserving recipients, including players from the home country of a specific tournament and the relatives of top players, such as the sister of Naomi Osaka and the brother of Novak Djokovic.
Each tournament is free to do what it wants with its wildcards, of course, but it is clearly false to say that there are better recipients than Murray.
Second, there’s an interesting question as to why Murray is out there. I confess I’ve wondered the same thing – what does the 33-year-old benefit from battling in Paris on a frigid court where the odds are against him ever achieving the heights he once scaled?
Murray has millions at home in the bank, a wife and three young children, and a list of tennis achievements that no Briton is likely to equal for a very, very long period of time.
The hip operations in 2018 and 2019 posed a big obstacle for the Dunblane man to tackle, and many claimed they spelled the end of his playing career, including some medical professionals.
The easiest choice would certainly have been to hang up his bat and walk off into the sunset, secure in the knowledge that he was the greatest sportsman ever from Scotland.
I believe that most ordinary mortals would have gone for that option. If I were in the role of Murray, I don’t think I’d want to put in the monumental effort needed to keep up with the best in the game today, even near.
So why is Murray still out there, as Wilander asked? The simple reason is that he obviously thinks he still has something left to offer, and he wants to see what else is in him. He might not win another title in the Grand Slam, but that doesn’t mean he sees this comeback as a disappointment.
But perhaps the most striking thing about watching Murray defeat world No. 7 Alex Zverev on the court in recent weeks, where, let’s not forget, he was, is that the desire that once made him great is still there, propelling him this year to make a comeback.
Yes, it’s crazy and difficult to fathom to return to the circuit with seemingly nothing to gain. But Murray still has the inherent drive that brought him to the top of the game when it seemed impossible that a Scot could ever be the world’s best tennis player.
And yes, it’s probably insane that Murray always drives his body through hell and pushes it to the limit, even though he doesn’t have anything to prove to anybody, except maybe himself.
But if he had never done all he had over the past 10 years without this overwhelming need to get back on the court.