By Claire Stanley
It was the best of times, was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
I wish I could say I wrote that quote, but of course that would be plagiarism. I’ve got Charles Dickens to thank for this paragraph of literary wonder that pretty much sums up every feeling I have when I watch Andy Murray play tennis.
Just yesterday we experienced some of the best of times watching Andy devour an in-form and recent Montpellier champion, Alexander Bublik, in straight sets. Like our Dickensian counterparts, this little morsel of goodness left us begging “please, Sir, I want some more…”
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Felix Auger-Aliassime embraced his role as the villainous Fagin and sent our hero packing with a one way ticket out of Rotterdam Central back to London. The spring of hope quickly became the winter of despair as Murray simply couldn’t keep up with the young Canadian in the first set – one break of serve from the steely Scot simply wasn’t enough to counter FAA’s early double break and the Montreal native wrapped the set up efficiently with Murray managing only one winner. The 6-3 scoreline flattered Andy, who had to grind from 4-0 down to avoid a bagel or breadstick.
The age of foolish, the epoch of belief, returned – as we entered the second set Murray seemed to be getting into his stride. The fire in his belly was back and he was ready to fight. We started to believe he could do it in three. Felix had other ideas. A break of serve from FAA, an immediate break back from Andy – this set had tiebreak written all over it… until Felix broke again and the season of darkness descended. All hope was lost and we were clinging on for dear life.
Yes, reader, I know I’m being dramatic, but let me wallow in my own self-pity for a moment.
I’m disappointed Andy couldn’t go further in Rotterdam. I’m disappointed he doesn’t get a rematch with Tsitsipas. I’m disappointed that my bracket – in which I so confidently (stupidly?) predicted Andy would win the entire tournament – is in tatters. But mostly I’m disappointed that I won’t see another one of Scott Barclay’s “Happy Andy Murray plays a tennis match today day” tweet for the rest of the week.
But what I can take away from the start of this year is that with every passing tournament we see more grit, more determination, more will to succeed. We don’t always get the results we hope for, but those flickers of Murray magic we saw so infrequently last year are starting to come at us harder and faster – soon those flickers will turn into flames, and when they do we’ll still be here, watching, cheering, ready to fight.
Doha, here we come. Rotterdam? I don’t know her.