By Claire Stanley
This week Andy Murray fans dared to dream that he would go all the way at the Sydney Tennis Classic after he received a wildcard invitation to play. And he very nearly did.
Seeing him hoist another runner’s up trophy above his head in Australia is usually a crushing blow – however, three years after the resilient Scot’s career almost ended, the sight of him holding that silver plate brings a feeling of hope and positivity for the future.
And although he choked back the tears as he thanked his team and his family for their support the former world number 1 must be feeling optimistic ahead of the first slam of the season.
“I’ll keep trying my best to come back and have more nights like this.”
This week Murray went deeper than he’s done in any tournament since he was victorious in Antwerp in November 2019 – 11 months after he underwent (what turned out to be career saving) hip resurfacing surgery. Five days, five matches, two of them extremely physical and exceeding the three-hour mark have surely given us all hope that 2022 is going to be a good year.
The two- and a-bit years since that Antwerp final against Stan Wawrinka have been turbulent to say the least, with many wondering if Murray could push his body through the barriers and return to the top of his game. A bruise to his pelvic bone, that led to a groin injury, sustained at the Davis Cup ruled him out of the 2020 Australian Open, before the COVID-19 pandemic put the world into lockdown in March that year – then with a string of poor results at the tail end of the resumed season, a bout of COVID and another groin strain at the beginning of 2021 it’s fair to say that it often seemed like one step forward and two steps back for the two-time Wimbledon champion.
So, as an avid Murray fan, it’s hard for me to fully put into words what this result in Sydney really means. The final outcome wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for – but at the same time it’s so much more than I expected. I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to Andy, but I’m also a realist and I know how much of an oxymoron that is. I never write him off, but I am acutely aware that when he comes up against an in-form player – such as Aslan Karatsev – the likelihood of him being beaten increases.
The right side of my brain fully expected Andy to win this entire tournament. The left side told me to calm down and be pleased to see him play two or three matches in the build up to the Australian Open. In the end I got a fairly happy in-between and I am so proud of what he has achieved. We witnessed some incredible tennis from Murray this week – particularly pleasing to see after his first round loss to Facundo Bagnis in Melbourne when many of us were left feeling confused and frustrated that the form which saw him convincingly beat Rafa Nadal in Abu Dhabi just a couple of weeks earlier seemed to have disappeared.
But they don’t call this ride a Murraycoaster for nothing – so we’ll take this runner’s up plate in Sydney, and we’ll keep coming back for more.