Week 273 (5 - 11 January 2019)
Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.” Well, there were tears from both heart and brain this week as Andy Murray, Britain’s most successful tennis player in the modern era, announced his premature retirement from tennis at the age of 31.
Plagued by a persistent and painful hip injury for over two years, Murray’s brain overruled his heart as he decided to call time on his illustrious career. The tears flowed freely and Murray had to temporarily leave a press conference today, ahead of his Australian Open first round match against 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut next week. Upon his return, Murray announced he plans to retire later this year after Wimbledon, but also suggested that next week's Australian Open could be his final Grand Slam appearance.
That he should cry as he outlined details to media is no surprise; Murray has always worn his heart on his sleeve and shown his emotions and deep passion for the game. The Swiss or Swedish glacial calm of other famous tennis champions over the years has never been a part of Murray’s raw nature, which the tennis world has grown to love.
After injuring his hip almost two years ago, the three-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one has battled with the pain so much that he sometimes struggles to put on his shoes and socks. And when Murray was asked if this may be his last tournament, it was clear from what he said that his brain had given his heart a good talking to.
“Yes, I think there’s a chance of that for sure because I’m not sure I’m able to play through the pain for another four or five months.”
Murray has always communicated openly about his life, which has led to him becoming a favourite amongst fans, media and other players. The reaction in traditional media and on social media is testament to the fortitude Murray has shown throughout his career, and a clear indication of why he is such an important role model for young athletes.
One thing that endears Murray to his fans is the fact that his path to the top of world tennis has not been easy. Murray was a survivor of the 1996 Dunblane School massacre, when 16 children and a teacher died. A few years later he turned down a hopeful career in football to focus on tennis, leaving his life in Scotland at 15 to train in Barcelona.
The sacrifices Murray made as a teenager paid dividends in 2016, when he became the first British male singles player to win a Grand Slam since Fred Perry in 1936. After two more Grand Slam titles, Murray reached the summit of tennis by becoming world number one, a position he held for 41 weeks.
Murray’s achievements on the court will ensure he is remembered as one of the all-time great British sportspeople. However, he will also be remembered for frequently vocalising his support for important social issues, such as equality in professional tennis. During a Wimbledon press conference in 2017, a reporter said: “Sam is the first U.S. player to reach a major semifinal since 2009”, to which Murray replied: “Male player”, referring to the incredible success of Serena Williams in that time.
Murray has been true to himself throughout his career, both on and off the field. Alongside three Grand Slam titles, two Olympic gold medals and a Davis Cup win, it is Murray’s attitude to promoting the role of women in sport that stands him out as one of Britain’s greatest sporting role models.
Andy Murray’s honest and open approach, along with his professional career and support for equality in professional tennis, makes him JTA Communicator of the Week.