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Andy Murray is still looking to connect

Andy Murray fails at Wimbledon earlier than ever in his career. But that’s no reason for him to give up. Like Stan Wawrinka or Serena Williams, he also believes in being able to turn back the wheel of time.

Doubts just for a moment: Andy Murray wants to return to Wimbledon.

James Veysey / Imago

There is a hint of farewell over Wimbledon these days. On Tuesday evening, seven-time winner Serena Williams failed in her first match in twelve months against French Harmony Tan. Two-time winner Andy Murray said goodbye less than 24 hours later. In the ninth match against the American service giant John Isner, he lost for the first time.

Murray had never been eliminated so early from the tournament he won in 2013 after 77 years, becoming the first Briton since Fred Perry. The victory earned him the knighthood of the Queen. Yet there was nothing chivalrous about Murray as he sat in front of the media and explained himself after the match on Wednesday. Disappointment was written all over his face, and he struggled for words in a husky voice.

Andy Murray at the media conference after losing to John Isner.

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Murray appeared to have resigned before. In 2019, before the start of the Australian Open in Melbourne, he tearfully announced that he would have to undergo complicated hip surgery after that tournament and that he might never return to the tour after that. In the first round he then involved the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in a five-set match lasting more than four hours, which he lost in the end.

Then parting words from his competitors were played on the screen of the court. Those were extremely emotional moments.

But three and a half years later, Andy Murray is still around. He is no longer the world number one, not even a top ten player. He is currently ranked 54th. Since his return he has won exactly one more title. In the autumn after hip surgery at the Antwerp indoor tournament in the final against Stan Wawrinka, another disabled player on the tennis circuit.

It sounded anything but capitulation

On Wednesday, Murray said his goal was to climb up the world rankings enough to be seeded again at the Grand Slam tournaments. That sounded anything but like capitulation and resignation. At 35, the Scot is by no means the oldest in the tournament. Seven players in the main draw are even older than him – including his opponent from Wednesday John Isner (37), which caused a desperate spectator to call out during the match: “Come on Andy, he’s older than you!”

Nothing helped. Murray lost and was then confronted in the second question of the media conference with the fact that he recently said that he still plays tennis because he still feels capable of going far in Grand Slam tournaments. Does he still think it’s possible?

Murray paused for a moment, then asked back, “Are you asking if my attitude has changed because of today’s match? No not at all. Most players would tell you that a match like today’s will be decided on a few points. And I wasn’t good enough on those points today.”

24 hours earlier, Serena Williams had sat in the same chair and said she had her chances today. A day earlier, Stan Wawrinka spoke in one of the smaller interview rooms about having to get match practice as quickly as possible. Williams will no longer have a ranking after Wimbledon, Wawrinka will drop to 282nd place. If he doesn’t start winning soon, he will only be able to play tournaments on the ATP tour at all thanks to goodwill and wild cards.

Williams is a 23-time Grand Slam winner. Murray led the world rankings for 41 weeks. Wawrinka won a major title in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and was temporarily ranked No. 3 in the world. All of them will hardly be able to build on their old successes. They live on the splendor of their past deeds.

What's next?  Andy Murray in his match against John Isner.

What’s next? Andy Murray in his match against John Isner.

James Veysey / Imago

The same should also apply to Roger Federer, who is quietly working on his comeback, which he wants to make at the end of September at the Laver Cup a few kilometers as the crow flies from Wimbledon in the O2 Arena. He will hardly win Grand Slam tournaments anymore.

Why are all these great athletes so attached to their careers? Why can’t they let go and say, “Enough, I’ve had enough?”

Before the start of the Wimbledon tournament, Wawrinka gave an insight into his inner life in a remarkable article on the American online platform “The Players Tribune”. The title of the contribution: “One last chapter”.

In the text, the 37-year-old Romand writes that he was considering resigning after his second operation and wondered if it was time to stop and had come to the conclusion. “No. I still love tennis, I love to train and I still believe I can play at a good level. But what was most important to me: I didn’t want to end my career as an injured person.”

Wawrinka is not Murray. Nobody was waiting for him at Wimbledon. He was given a wild card. But he played his first round match against the Italian Jannik Sinner on a pitch on the edge of the facility.

Murray continues to be the crowd favorite at Wimbledon

It’s different with Andy Murray. He continues to be the crowd favorite at Wimbledon. He has won the tournament twice, in 2013 and 2016. In 2012 he also won Olympic gold here in the final against Roger Federer. On Wednesday, at the end of his media conference, he was asked if he would be seen back here next summer.

He hesitated for a moment, then replied, “It depends on how I’m feeling physically. But with the problems I’ve had with my body over the past few years, it’s extremely difficult to make a long-term prognosis. If it’s possible, I’ll keep going.”

Tennis won’t let her go. Not him, not Stan Wawrinka, not Serena Williams. But sooner or later they will go. And no matter how they go, they will be missed.

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