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Andy was down but desperate to prove he is not out


New targets: Andy Murray has sights set on coming back strong in the new decade
New targets: Andy Murray has sights set on coming back strong in the new decade

By Eleanor Crooks

Andy Murray has transformed himself over the last decade from youthful contender to serial champion and is one of Britain's most respected sports stars, but could his greatest chapter be yet to come?

When Murray tearfully announced at the Australian Open in January that he feared a chronic hip problem would end his career, it seemed the 2020s would be a step too far.

But, with a metal hip now in place, Murray is instead preparing to return to Australia and hopes his career could have several new chapters to add.

Whatever the final phase of his time in the professional ranks holds, Murray will go down as Britain's greatest modern tennis player and one of its greatest sportsmen.

Playing in the toughest era of men's tennis against its three most successful exponents, Murray made getting the best from himself a complete obsession.

He admits his determination to push himself physically to and beyond his limits contributed to his hip problem but, on court or off it, Murray was never one to take the easy option.

At the start of the decade he had already reached his first grand slam final - the US Open in 2008 - and was trying to take the next step.

He would finally achieve it in New York four years later, having allowed himself to contemplate the idea that perhaps it would not happen for him.

After the tears of his first Wimbledon final that same summer - the moment when Britain as a whole realised it had misjudged this shy, sensitive Scot - and the euphoria of Olympic gold on home soil, Murray reached the tennis pinnacle in a fittingly gruelling way with a five-set victory over his boyhood rival, Novak Djokovic.

That was a significant hurdle overcome, but the focus turned almost immediately to whether he could repeat the feat at Wimbledon and end the decades-long drought for British men.

He did so gloriously at the very next opportunity, surviving a nerve-jangling final game to see off Djokovic again and emulate Fred Perry 77 years on.

Whatever Murray achieved from that point, victory on July 7, 2013 was his career-defining moment.

As competitive an animal as Murray was, he was never going to lose motivation and, although back surgery disrupted his progress, he continued to cement his position in the 'big four' alongside Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

He reached two more Australian Open finals, in 2015 and 2016, to take his tally to five, all defeats, before breaking new ground by making it to the final of the French Open, where Djokovic again blocked his way.

But a month later he lifted the Wimbledon trophy for a second time, relishing a straight-sets victory over Milos Raonic that brought joy rather than relief.

November 2015, meanwhile, brought arguably his most remarkable achievement, guiding Great Britain to the Davis Cup title virtually single-handed, and he made history by becoming the first tennis player to win back-to-back Olympics golds in singles.

Murray had also established himself as a powerful spokesman on various issues, including anti-doping and equality - he was shocked by the reaction to his appointment of Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014.

By the end of 2016, Murray was on top of the world, ranked number one following a string of titles, but his body was at breaking point. Three tough years later, the 32-year-old is ready to give it another crack with nothing left to prove to himself or the country that now regards him as a national treasure.

Belfast Telegraph


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