The name of Andy Murray will forever be carved in the golden letters of the history of Olympism. At the men’s level, the last decade of tennis at the Olympic event has had a common denominator in each of its editions: a Dunblane guy ended up on the podium with a gold medal in his neck. At the time of Big-3, of whom so much has been said lately because of the never-before-seen historical pulse they maintain, achieving this milestone is even more commendable.
Andy Murray arrives at Tokyo in very different conditions than his last two participations. For starters, a pretty cold fact: it is beyond the top 100. It is strange to say it out loud, but the Scottish tennis player is # 104 in the worldHis last appearance at Wimbledon was on an invitation, and this year he even made it to the Challenger circuit. It’s what it’s like to play one of the most demanding and weariest sports in the world with a metal hip.
2012 and the Games as the beginning of everything
But before we focus on his last dance on an Olympic track, it is worth stopping at the historical background that the Olympic Games have had in his sporting career. Let’s go back to the summer of 2012, when Djokovic, Federer and Nadal they shared the Grand Slams pie … with Murray always close by. Always behind them, just one step away, but never enough. To end this situation, the Dunblane tennis player had hired Ivan lendl. The reward was very close.
Already at the beginning of the season the union between the two had shown green shoots. It is impossible to forget the Australian Open 2012 semi-final against Novak Djokovic: a pulse from power to power, a physical battle under the Rod Laver mat in which two friends pushed themselves to the limit and exhausted themselves like never before. Murray played like never before … but fell like always: in five tough sets, again, one step away from making history.
On Wimbledon history would repeat itself. In the harshest way possible, in addition: in a final, when everything indicated that now yes, when fate seemed to have written that Murray’s first Grand Slam would be the one that would end a historic wait of more than 70 years for the British. Andy was playing the best tennis of his career, throwing right, his theoretical weak point, as he had never done before … but this time it was an enlightened Federer who would close the door in his face. Tears, uneasiness. Everything would change a month later.
Same scene, different curtain. From Slazenger advertising to Olympic rings. The grass a little more worn, Murray a little more rejuvenated. The first tower was knocked down in the semifinals: Novak Djokovic, the man who always got in their way, could not do anything before a match absolutely exalted at service from the Scottish. Serves that fell like bombs and that would lead to a new final at the All England Club.
Ahead, Federer … But this time fate, luck, call it what you want, was on Murray’s side. Roger was coming off a maximum effort in the semifinals, after an epic duel against del Potro that dragged on and prevented Roger from being 100% physically in the title match. Did this intimidate or make Murray doubt this circumstance? No way. The sun came up in London and Andy became a man. It was the most important title of his career, achieved in the sanctuary in which he had always wanted to succeed, and even there is some paradox in that gold medal: the boy who many rejected for being “too Scottish” had been in charge of bringing that medal home.
2016, on top of the world
What happened after that Olympic medal is history. Murray got stronger in big games, prevailing mentally in his fourth Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows. He had closed a perfect cycle in which he had evolved mentally, physically and tennis, and the Olympic gold medal had played an absolutely key role in it. Let’s hit play and do a fastforward, four years later: Federer and Nadal with physical discomfort, Djokovic dominating the circuit with an iron fist … and an Andy Murray who was beginning to poke his head in search of a relatively distant goal: World’s number one.
The bombshell that struck Juan Martin del Potro in the first round, orphaning Rio as the world’s number one, it felt like a shock similar to the one Sam Querrey had delivered at Wimbledon just weeks ago. On that occasion, no one could stop the more mature Murray, a guy totally deprived of the chains that one day gripped him, with a happiness on a personal level that was translated on the track. It was never better on a physical level, both at the level of strength and mobility, and his gaze now did transfer the fierceness that many demanded of him in the beginning.
The most complete version of Andy Murray found no rival in Brazilian cement. Not even the epic Cinderella tale signed by Delpo could get in Murray’s way. A man on a mission. From that Olympic gold, the Scotsman would chain an absolutely spectacular end of the year, with titles everywhere, including the one that would elevate him to the top of the ranking: the ATP Finals. Andy, the boy who always seemed to fall short, was on the cusp, looking over everyone. Not bad.
2021, the last dance
Five years later, everything has changed. Getting to the top has a toll, and few have suffered as much as the British. His iron armor has been totally bruised by the onslaught of injuries, which appeared after months of physical frenzy. The demands of the monster decade pushed Murray to the limit, but even with a metal hip the Scotsman has returned to Tokyo to tell the world that he is still there.
They are Olympic days, which means they are days when the figure of Andy Murray is worth remembering and vindicating. Why? Because his career, one of the most brilliant in history, cannot be separated from the Olympic Games, springboards in the best years of his sports career; because he has done at the individual male level what nobody could ever do, not even the rest of the Big-3, and because his values represent the effort and the will to excel that is within the Olympic spirit. Whatever result you get, Andy has nothing to prove to anyone … but how nice it would be to experience one last dance properly. Will Murray give it to us? We will see it very soon.