by Rajagopalan Rohinee
Andy Murray embodied many things to many people. He was the gritty warrior who never let up in his performances, despite the numerous defeats and setbacks that waylaid him. He was the deceptive athlete, who could vary his shot-making to suit himself and discomfit his opponent. He was also the rebel who took decisions which though seemed effortless for him, never seemed easy for others.
Of all these facets, it’s the last trait that not only set Murray apart from his peers but also carved a unique pride of place for him among them.
Be it raising his voice for the controversial referendum vote for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom – followed by an unapologetic stance reiterating his decision in the aftermath of the fallout – in 2014, or be it a demonstrative declaration of giving women in the profession – both past and present – their due, Murray never shied away from taking a stand regardless of how it may have been perceived.
At a time, when, on the subject of equal pay for women players, players either preferred to sit on the fence with displays of dubious diplomacy, or outright negated the need for the same, Murray’s unequivocal stance to speak up for the women set a precedent. Now, against the backdrop of the overwhelming emotions coming forth after his shock announcement about his impending retirement, reactions to the Briton’s viewpoint have been conveniently airbrushed. However, back when he had stood up for the cause – so to speak – Murray was cast as a pariah, by many in the same fold.
A similar turnaround has, then, been effectuated about his decision to appoint Amelie Mauresmo as his coach, between now and then. When Murray engaged Mauresmo as his coach in 2014, disparagements shrouded as banter greeted his move, pitting it as a step-down of sorts after Ivan Lendl. To the relentless critics, it did not matter that under the guidance of the Frenchwoman, Murray won his first Masters 1000 on clay – in Madrid in 2015 – or that he continued the established trend of being a fixture in the finals of the Majors (with two consecutive trips to the Australian Open final Sunday in 2015-16).
Cut to 2018, merely two years after Mauresmo and Murray parted ways, as Mauresmo resumed her coaching career by joining compatriot Lucas Pouille’s team, opinions veered towards cheers and acceptance as though it was no big deal in the scheme of things. While this was indeed a change for the better, it still hit harder that it was not the case the first time around when such unnecessary hue and cry was made about it.
At the same time, though, it is also fitting – at par with the theme of what Murray’s career has been, unbound and unfettered by conventions.
Murray started out as the beacon of deliverance for British tennis that had been long-parched, lacking a Major champion for years. And, in the decade-and-a-half that he unwound his way through the professional circuit, Murray not only lived up to those expectations – as stifling as they were at times – but also gave his country more reasons, beyond conventionality, to hope. Even beyond the scope of winning Wimbledon, as he transformed himself from an envisioned titlist at the Championships, to a multiple-time Major winner – coming close enough to completing the Grand Slam.
One looking to making the most of opportunities could do well to borrow a page from Murray’s 2016 manual, in which he pushed his body to the limits of its endurance in trying to attain the world no. 1 ranking for the first time in his career. Time, though will suck in the allure of that accomplishment just as it would blot the other numbers that form the stockpile of his career. However, Murray’s long-lasting legacy will be of being an inspiration, who was not only unfettered by conventions, but also impervious to time-bound limitations.