In today’s climate, social media provides an outlet for athletes to express themselves. Whether it’s the messaging, photo selection or interactions and frequency of publishing, creative control is in their hands.
Though owning a few accounts, which are used sparingly in comparison to his adversaries, Andy Murray is not someone concerned with the portrayal of his character. A man with a heart heavier than the public pressure thrust upon him on home soil, Murray puts up few emotional walls. When struggling to contain his feelings, a Wimbledon shower at times emerges. When firm on an opinion, he’s at the front of the queue speaking. When he’s having a productive day at the office, Pimms bottles are passionately popping.
It’s why this week at Queen’s Club in London, Murray’s triumphant return is the Centre Court story transfixing the tennis community. His gifts and work ethic along with the sincerity and openness he’s shared the past 15 seasons make rooting for the former world No. 1 to succeed immediately in his ‘second career’ a straightforward decision.
Many, including Murray himself, ruled out the possibility he’d be in this tournament, let alone become doubles champion with Feliciano Lopez. The Spaniard more than carried his weight in pulling taxing double duty, winning the singles crown over Gilles Simon in a decisive tiebreaker before partnering Murray to a 7-6 (5), 5-7 [10-5] victory over Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury on Sunday.
"I felt very relaxed at the beginning of the week. As it got on, I was getting more and more nervous," Murray told Sue Barker in an on-court interview afterwards. "I think my competitive instincts were kicking in with each match."
Just over five months ago, Murray took the podium at the Australian Open for his pre-tournament press conference. He struggled to complete sentences, needing to step outside to compose himself before discussing the toll of his injuries and likelihood he'd be forced to stop playing. At that point in time, Murray was not considering a doubles-focused career. Following a memorable five-set loss to Roberto Bautista Agut. the five-time Melbourne finalist was sent off by the tournament with a retirement video and he made peace with that performance possibly being his final curtain call, saying, “I'd be okay with that being my last match.”
He underwent a resurfacing procedure on his right hip soon after, stating his quality of life trumped all other factors. As time went by and each checkpoint was met with encouraging results in the recovery process, the appetite of a champion strengthened. His eldest daughter, Sophia, who told dad Andy he’s better-suited for ‘blue tennis’ over ‘green tennis’ or ‘orange tennis', is one of main inspirations driving the two-time Wimbledon champion’s comeback and change in perspective about focusing on doubles for the time being.
Sophia’s opinion on the best-colored court may rapidly change after watching her father win four matches with Lopez. Murray will continue playing next week with former Wimbledon doubles champion Marcelo Melo in Eastbourne, before teaming up at the All England Club with Pierre-Hugues Herbert, another past doubles winner at the event.
"It was brilliant. My hip felt great, no pain," Murray said to resounding cheers Sunday. "I'll try to keep progressing from here but I'm just happy being back on the court."
Wimbledon is the lone major where men’s doubles matches are best-of-five sets, and while that will be a new challenge for Murray to face, one has to think the competition will closely monitor where the dangerous, unseeded British-French duo lands come Friday’s draw.
From hoping a Wimbledon swan song was his best-case scenario in January to soon arriving at the grass-court major with an enriched outlook on life—and his career possibilities—here’s to following this chapter of Murray’s storybook with full appreciation for his love of the game, and a bowl of strawberries and cream.