Dear Andy Murray,
First of all, I would like to congratulate you for your recent feat of becoming the World No. 1 for the first time (and that too, the first British) in your professional career that dates back to more than a decade. But then like many, I am sure even you too, would have wanted to reach that most awaited summit by playing and winning a match rather than just a mere walkover. Then again, let me tell you why this walkover was more destined, if not apt enough than just a mere coincidence or a spoiler.
Remember your journey when you started way back in 2005? It took you a year to win your first Tour title at the US spring. Your next title kept you in wait for exactly another year when you defended your Pacific Open title on the back of losing two finals between them. Your success, as such, was always hard earned and it never came easy. Coming to Masters, it took you more than three seasons to earn one. And now, when you take on John Isner for the Paris title, you have the chance of winning the 14th – which will help you in solidifying your position at the top.
However, nothing in tennis tastes better and more prestigious than winning a Grand Slam. It was where I find you as the tragic prince. From 2008 US Open to 2012 Wimbledon at home, you lost all four of your Grand Slam title matches – a painful streak that you share with your two-time present coach Ivan Lendl – and what more you failed to even win a set in any of those four encounters. Given that you lost at important matches to the Big Three despite taking early lead was what aggravated Goran Ivanisevic advise you to shed your “Mr. Nice Guy” tag while fighting on court.
For a generation that has more followed Federer and Nadal and later Djokovic, you seemed to be at peace with yourself living under their mighty shadows – only to come out of your domain once in a while. For a person like me whose fondness for Federer took him to the sport, there was a feeling other than the maestro winning a Slam after 2 years and taking his tally to 17 in that Wimbledon final in 2012. It was a choke in the throat for a guy on the other side of the net who probably is carrying the hope (or a seven-decade thirst of a nation) on his shoulders. Your tears on receiving the plate perhaps made me feel against my God. He already had tons of them – what another Wimbledon could really make a difference? On the other hand, an Andy Murray win would not just be his, but of the entire Great Britain’s – a matter which is rarely seen in this individualistic professional sport.
And in a month’s time, that Murray and Britain won finally – what so if it was in Olympics where the ATP does not offer any ranking points, but where the National Anthem is certainly played with pride. My hero Federer was mauled in straight sets by the vintage Briton – which meant my Swiss God will virtually end his career without an Olympics Gold medal in singles. But so what, I was happy for you, Andy – for the joy of seeing the “Nice Guy” win finally. And with that, a new dawn arrived – you went on to win titles at the USO and the Wimbledon – beating your nemesis Djokovic on both the occasions. Finally, the nation can now celebrate a person from among themselves other than the great Fred Perry of pre-World War II era.
Next big achievement of yours was that Davis Cup win for Great Britain last year and it was also another trophy that the nation wanted for long. Again as always, you rose to the occasion while having the Union Jack on your shirt as you defended your Olympic gold months back at Rio – a feat that none from your generation could really boast of. The beginning of the season was really hard – after losing consecutive Slam finals in Melbourne and Paris to the “Serbinator”. At one point, you even fell behind Federer in the rankings to third, but then again it was a feat to dethrone Djokovic from the summit in a year when many wondered the Serb to win the calendar Grand Slam. People may attribute your ascendency with Djokovic’s struggle or loss of passion or even question your weeks at the top – given the thin magnitude of the lead now means that Novak can even take it back from you in the coming season-ending World Tour Finals. But as of now, nothing can stop you from becoming the World No. 1 even if it is for just a week or two – when the fresh rankings will be declared in less than 24 hours time.
People may make fun of your five AO plates, but they just forget that now, you have reached the finals in all the four Slams. They forget you are one who picked up a female coach in Amelie Mauresmo in an age when all talk about “Equality” in the prize bounties. People even earmarked you for long as the best “World No. 2” ever but I wonder what would happen if you finally win at Melbourne or even Paris one day. Then perhaps, they will have no other option than to place you right alongside the legends of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in a foursome rivalry that defines a Golden generation.
What more, I can go on and on forever. But before I stop, let me go back to what I started with. A walkover to the top was fine enough. It was just a dividend for a man who has always worked hard to win each of his 42 titles so far – an anti-climax that people will remember this one for more than the usual climax when they associate you with the second-best. If you have had fought and lost on courts many times, at least for once you won from the locker-room itself. But then you have a chance of winning tonight to start your greatest Monday on a high – and on that count, I hope Isner would neither win nor give you a walkover.
So 3 trophies and 8 plates is not what defines you, Andy. You define an Isle – the entire Great Britain. You revived the dying glory of your Union Jack on this racquet court. And it’s time I finally call you with pride that Murray after yesterday is an English dream that can never again be belittled as one like that those of Shakespearean Mid-summer’s Nights’.
Not a die-hard fan of your game, but one who is definitely an admirer of your perseverance that taught the world that “nice guys” too can win.
Photo by Marianne Bevis