Four years ago Britain’s Andy Murray was a force in men’s tennis, and one of the sport’s big four along with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal. Murray’s résumé is impressive: nearly 700 wins, 46 singles titles including 3 Grand Slams, 2 Olympic gold medals, and a stint as the world’s top-ranked player in 2016. Two hip surgeries later Murray is no longer part of that rarefied group, and at 33 is likely on the last stretch of an inspiring career. With Murray making a miraculous return to tennis, the question everyone is asking is can he perform a miracle and win another Grand Slam?
The answer, hard as it is to accept, looks to be no. In fact, the Scotland native himself seems unconvinced. Speaking to the BBC, Murray said: “So, it will be difficult, but I’ll keep trying — why not? Why shouldn’t I try my hardest to do that? And if I don’t, that’s all right. But I might as well shoot for the stars.”
Indeed, Murray looks determined to shoot for the stars, and competing in this September’s U.S. Open — his first Grand Slam since hip resurfacing surgery in January of last year — was proof of it. In fact, the stars looked like they had aligned for Murray as the tournament was without the trio of Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal. In any other circumstance it would have been Murray’s best shot at adding a fourth Grand Slam. Instead he lost in the second round to young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. It was a beating so thorough that Murray managed only 9 winners as opposed to Auger-Aliassime’s 52, and he could not even take his younger foe to break point. This lack of form was further on display in the French Open after he lost to Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round. The match only took an hour and 37 minutes.
It is obvious that Murray isn’t in shape just yet, and is still building up his body and working on his conditioning. That said, Murray will have to recapture his 2016 form if he wants a realistic shot at a fourth Grand Slam. Murray in 2016 was simply magical, reaching the finals of the Australian Open and the quarterfinals of the French Open before winning Wimbledon. Gala Bingo reports how 2016 was Murray’s second Wimbledon title, and one of UK sports’ crowning achievements that year. Murray also added a gold medal to Team GB’s second place finish in the 2016 Rio Olympics, before finishing the year at number 1 in the ATP Tour rankings — the first British man to do so.
Murray turning back the clock isn’t impossible, but it’s a long shot. In fact, former GB player Greg Rusedski, a one-time U.S. Open finalist, doesn’t anticipate a return to form by Murray, largely because of his injury history. “I don’t see him winning another major in his career,” Rusedski said in an exclusive interview with the Radio Times prior to the U.S. Open. “I think it’s just physically too demanding for everything he’s been through.”
It’s a brutal assessment, but it’s also spot-on. Murray, despite flashes of brilliance, is a shell of his 2016 self, and is unlikely to come close to that form given his hips. He will battle hard, as he always does, and will keep shooting for the stars. Unfortunately though, Murray’s days as a Grand Slam contender seem to be well past him. Then again anything can happen in sports.