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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Andy Murray Sets Sights on Wimbledon Return, Aiming for Another Remarkable Run

Sir Andy Murray was 300 miles away on the other side of the English Channel in late May, dialled in on preparations for the grass at Wimbledon, while the rest of the world’s finest tennis players were concentrated on the red clay at the French Open.

At least, that was the intention. But then Kim Sears, his wife, had to spend a few days in Scotland taking care of business at the hotel she and Murray operate. That left him in charge of getting their four children (all less than eight years old) ready for school, breakfast, and out the door by himself at 5:30 every morning.

After the last baby was born, he drove the three hours to Roehampton, where he saw his physiotherapist and trained for hours on the grass court and in the gym at Britain’s national tennis centre. Interviews and footage for promotional films were also shot that afternoon. This is only the next step in Murray’s metal hip and all effort to end his career on his own terms.

Perhaps it means rediscovering the magic that made him the first British man to win his sport’s most prestigious trophy in 77 years, exactly 10 years ago. Maybe it’s just getting back into the top 30 or 20 and showing the sceptics and doctors who wrote him off for a tennis career following hip resurfacing in 2019 that they were incorrect.

Or it might be putting it off for as long as he can continue to be the respected tennis veteran, successful businessman, and someone who once accomplished that great feat.

The sloppy take on Murray is that he is a guy with only three Grand Slam singles victories, the same as Stan Wawrinka, who is a terrific champion but hardly one’s concept of an all-time great. Murray faces British player Ryan Peniston in the first round on Tuesday. This is Novak Djokovic’s 23rd major title. Nadal has 22, while Federer has just 20. The “Big Three” refers to these entities.

Djokovic has said that he doesn’t like for such phrase since it doesn’t include Murray, an opponent he has fought against ever since they were juniors. On Saturday, the pair rehearsed at the All England Club.

Federer had Murray play a significant role in his farewell speech at the Laver Cup last year for a good reason. Two of Murray’s Grand Slam victories came against Djokovic, and he has defeated both Nadal and Federer 29 times overall. During the height of men’s tennis competition, he reached 11 Grand Slam singles finals. Between 2004 and 2022, only he, Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic were ever ranked higher. He also endured unprecedented levels of stress when winning Wimbledon for the first time.

Or it was an incredible career until Murray’s back and ankles gave out from the gruelling physical approach, which in turn caused the degenerative hip problem that ended his career in 2017. Murray underwent his first hip surgery in January of 2018 and it ended in failure. Everyone watched him hobble and grimace through the remainder of the season.

While having breakfast with Andy Murray at the 2019 Australian Open, 23-time Grand Slam doubles champion Bob Bryan mentioned to Murray that he underwent hip resurfacing surgery the previous summer. Bryan had the surgery, and five months later he was playing doubles at a professional level again. There was nothing like elite singles.

The procedure was intended to alleviate Murray’s suffering so that he could once again enjoy time with his kids.

His approach to physical therapy and recovery over the following six months was inspired by his fierce determination on the tennis court. He was a dedicated stay-at-home dad. The man was a golfer. He socialised with familiar faces.

According to Matt Gentry, Murray’s longtime agent and business partner, the time off allowed him to see what it would be like to not play professional tennis. This wasn’t the worst thing ever.

Murray and Gentry started plotting out potential business ventures since Murray has always admired American athletes who treat their careers like businesses. Since then, Murray has released a range of apparel. He, together with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, has put money into TMRW Sports, which is developing a new golf tournament and other projects to bring together sports media and technology. He is a member of a team responsible for constructing hundreds of padel courts in gyms and recreation centres around the United Kingdom.

Near his boyhood home in Dunblane, Scotland, he bought a castle-like hotel with 15 rooms in 2013 for around $2 million. The home carried particular significance since his grandparents celebrated their silver wedding anniversary there in 1982. It was the site of his and Sears’ wedding reception. Jamie, his brother, also had his wedding there.

Murray and Sears have just finished the first stages of a multimillion-dollar repair and extension of the property, which will ultimately include cottages beside the neighbouring loch. Several works of art from Murray’s personal collection are on display in the hotel. These include a number of prints by Damien Hirst and David Shrigley.

Murray has indicated that he is currently just active in the company by listening to ideas and writing cheques, but that he hopes to become more hands-on after he retires from tennis. That day, if he has his way, will not come for a while.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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