MIKE DICKSON: Andy Murray has nothing left to prove in tennis

MIKE DICKSON: Andy Murray has nothing left to prove in tennis and is risking the respect he has earned with his histrionics on court… after being booed in Paris, it begs the question why he wants to play on

  • Andy Murray this week admitted he is ‘not enjoying’ tennis after he was booed 
  • The Scot can never be accused of not giving everything to the sport he loves 
  • His on-court histrionics risk damaging all the respect he has earned from fans 

We stood in the bowels of Paris’s Bercy Arena earlier this week, talking to Andy Murray about the latest one which had just got away.

‘What happened today… that’s not really me,’ said the ashen-faced former Wimbledon champion, after he had let slip a 5-2 lead in the deciding set against Alex de Minaur, for the second time inside a month.

You could only find yourself nodding sympathetically. 

Nobody who has closely followed Murray’s career could ever accuse him of not having given absolutely everything to maximise his career.

Many athletes across different sports will claim this to be the case, but it rarely rings more authentically than when applied to the 36-year-old Scot and his metal hip.

Andy Murray screamed in anger after losing in Paris, and he would go on to be booed by crowd

Murray continues to battle away at the highest level despite the lump of metal in his hip

At the same time, you also find yourself wondering why on earth he is still out there, an echo of the player who became world No 1 exactly seven years ago. 

Moreover, he is in danger of damaging all the respect he has rightfully earned through on court histrionics, which appear to be getting worse, not better, with the onset of early middle age.

Murray has nothing left to prove, with an array of titles and gold medals from an impossibly tough era, not to mention having earned more than £100million in the process, prize money and outside income combined.

If the end is nigh, wny not just go out and treat everything now as a bonus? It might make winning easier.

Yet that would be to misunderstand the mindset which has underpinned Murray’s achievements, the restless and anxious desire to constantly improve which dictates that straightforward enjoyment cannot be an option. Taking a more relaxed approach would be like trying to fill a finely-turned sports car up with diesel.

And he is not alone in attracting the question why he is still out there, spending weeks on end in soulless hotel rooms and rarely seeing anything more than the court, gym and courtesy car.

On the day he missed a match point against de Minaur, 37-year-old Richard Gasquet and 38-year-old Stan Wawrinka did exactly the same thing in their first round defeats.

His Paris meltdown begs the question why he wants to carry on playing with nothing to prove

In September Murray smashed his racket after failing to finish off Alex de Minaur in Beijing

Wawrinka’s career has been similar to Murray’s. Three Grand Slam titles, but considerably less of the auxiliary stuff. Gasquet was a child prodigy who never quite lived up to his early billing but has been a regular fixture in the top ten. Between them, in official prize money alone, they have collected more than $125m.

Something in common is their absolute obsession with the game from a young age. 

Indeed in recent years both Wawrinka (in Umag this summer) and Murray (Queen’s 2021) have become emotional in post-match interviews when discussing their love for this extremely demanding one-on-one sport.

For all concerned may well be a fear of the anchorless sensation that awaits when retirement comes, as is common among many athletes.

After his defeat in Paris Gasquet declared that he was still enthused by the sport, even in the wake of a painful defeat. Almost incredibly, he has played 33 tournaments in 2023.

He also revealed to L’Equipe that he and Murray have discussed their enduring dedication: ‘We talk about it from time to time,’ said the Frenchman. ‘On Instagram, he wrote to me when I won in Auckland (back in January) , I wrote to him when he won a few things too. We follow each other.

‘It’s just the passion for the game quite simply, you experience emotions, tonight you lose but that’s part of the game. 

‘You’re obviously disappointed but what remains is this audience, the sensations you can have on the court . There aren’t a lot of people who can understand this.

The two-time Wimbledon champion was simmering with rage after the defeat at China Open

Wimbledon in 2024 may be a final farewell, but he often looks like he has no plan to walk away

‘But we will know how to stop, him like me, when we no longer have the level at all. 

‘I’m not at all bored of playing. I had my ups and downs but I still managed to enjoy myself quite a few times this year. I’m not young anymore, I’m in my 38th year, which is still old, but I don’t know when I’m going to stop.’

Gasquet’s tone seemed more phlegmatic and accepting than Murray, who was swiftly talking about he needed to work extra hard in the off-season to improve. He is due to play his last regular tournament of the year this coming week in Metz.

He might be eyeing up Wimbledon next summer as the place to bow out, but then again he may also look at long passages of play from the match against de Minaur when he was clearly the better player than the world No 13, striking the ball purposefully and volleying cleanly. He also remains the oldest player in the men’s top 50, which is an achievement in itself.

At times his mind must surely stray towards what comes to next in life, and that can be unhelpful territory. 

This week I could not help recall a conversation with the late cricketing great, Bob Willis, who once ventured that when you start contemplating retirement it can shave a few percentage points off the mental performance side. 

‘And those are the most important percentage points you’ve got,’ he concluded.

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