There’s a wonderful video that circled the web yesterday, where a raw teenager from Scotland was facing the British media and casually enjoying some strawberries at SW19. It was 2005, the year Andrew Murray made his Wimbledon debut. Ranked outside the top 300 in the world, he was seen to be the next big hope for the locals and someone who would go on to do what Fred Perry did, decades ago.
Fast forward to 2006, this young blood raised a lot of eyebrows across the world by beating the almost invincible version of a Swiss genius. Yes, Roger Federer of 2006 is as good as it gets and Andy Murray had knocked him out.
This lean, rusty Scot was touted by many to be at the helm of tennis in the future. In 2009, he captured the second spot in men’s ranking. But it took him another seven grinding years to better it. It’s 2016 and Andy Murray has finally reached the sporting pinnacle and you guessed it right, he’s the oldest one to do so, in a very, very long time. The oldest since 1974, to be precise.
For obvious reasons, the journey from second to the top was a long one for Andy. The reason- being a part of the era that witnessed Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Three of the all time greats. Murray was very similar to Novak till most part of the last decade. Come 2011, Novak not only tuned the technical aspects of his game, but he became the toughest to put away mentally too. Andy still struggled to get a major. Losing in finals to Novak and Roger was the best he could manage. Accustomed to dips in form, Murray never had a consistent year according to his standards or potential.
When he broke down following yet another final defeat to Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final, it seemed as if he would never be able to leave the league of an Andy Roddick or Lleyton Hewitt. Even a single slam looked a distant goal as his luck would draw him against Federer or Novak in the final – players who have always held the upper hand against him. In came Lendl, to work on his mental fortress, to provide the sense of calmness that had been missing from the Scot’s game. And the results are there for the world to see.
A lot of people are arguing that he maybe the most undeserving player to be at the top. When the likes of Roger and Rafa are in the twilight of their careers and Novak seems to have lost the zeal on court, Andy has pounced on the opportunity and has not really earned it. Wrong. At 29 plus, which is considered to be the beginning of a slow end to the prime of a tennis athlete, Murray has proved that he is one of the most resilient players of this generation and his rise to the top is the ultimate act of perseverance. Just the fact that he held his ground for all these years, the time that has seen many players wither down and fade away due to the likes of Roger and Rafa, Murray has entered every tournament for the last six years or so as the most prominent threat to these giants. That alone is a mark of tremendous character.
The fact that he never settled, even after clinching the Wimbledon in 2013 and didn’t cut short his ambitions of achieving the numero uno spot for the last couple of years speaks volumes about the evolution Murray has gone through. He is worthy of everything that he has achieved, including this one.
After being about 8K points behind Novak before Wimbledon, Murray will now enter the O2 arena with a lead of about 400 points. It has been one remarkable season, considering he came short in the first two slams of the year. This ascent to the top also puts end to the doubts raised by critics about his position in the Big 4. From the league of a Roddick or Hewitt, Murray’s name should be mentioned along the likes of Becker and Edberg. From the grass courts of Dunblane, to ruling the holy lawn of London, Andy Murray is your deserving world number one.
“I think this is just reward for his perseverance, his patience and his resilience because he’s such an incredible fighter.” said Judy Murray, and we couldn’t agree more.