By Claire Stanley
As Fatboy Slim once said: We’ve come a long, long way together. Through the hard times and the good. I have to celebrate you, baby. I have to praise you like I should.
I have nothing but praise for Andy Murray following a stellar week in Stuttgart. Murray fans have been firmly strapped in for a rollercoaster ride these past few years – indeed, these past few months alone have seen us witness both the hard times (January through to April) and the good. And this week was good.
The final result may not have been what we were hoping for – and there were certainly some worrying moments in the final set of Sunday’s match against Matteo Berrettini, with Murray requiring the physio to come on court and looking like he was in obvious discomfort with what appeared to be a groin injury (and has now been revealed to be abdominal pain) – but as fans we have so much to take away from this week.
An incredible run to the final which saw Murray defeat Christopher O’Connell, Alexander Bublik, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios without dropping a set has to have left the Scot feeling encouraged for the rest of the grass court season. Although he was outplayed by Berrettini – a deserving champion – on the day, Murray showed his brilliance and forced the big serving Italian to play some of his best tennis. Should Murray play, a potential re-match awaits them in the second round of Queens next week – and in front of a hungry home crowd, I’m sure Andy (now ranked number 48 in the world!) will be keen to serve up his revenge.
With the dust settled (and the gin consumed), a final loss against world number 10 Matteo Berrettini – reigning Queens Club champion and last year’s Wimbledon runner-up – really hasn’t taken the gloss off what has been a spectacular week for me as a Murray fan. Yes, the title would have been the icing on the cake, but it really has been such a thrill to see him back on grass playing beautiful tennis against some truly tough opponents – and winning.
For me, the highlight of this week was his win over Tsitsipas – and not for the reason many might think (I am *over* the U.S. Open, folks) – it’s because Tsitsipas is a world-class player. He’s #5 in the world. He’s a Masters champion, a runner-up at Roland-Garros, a year-end finals winner – Stefanos Tsitsipas is not to be taken lightly. For Murray to beat him so convincingly earlier in the week highlights how far he’s come since their heated first round match at the U.S. Open last year.
That particular highlight is closely followed by his incredible fightback in the second set of his second round match against Alexander Bublik. A relatively comfortable first set win was followed by a nail-biting second set, which saw Murray trail 5-2, despite taking an early lead. I assumed the set was all but lost and we were heading for a decider when Sir Andy Murray reminded us all who he is and fought back to take it to a tiebreak, which he duly won. Game, set and match – and an extremely happy Andy in his post-match interview.
Murray hit some shots this tournament that a man with a metal hip (did you know he has a metal hip?) has absolutely no right to make – and he did it with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. He was pumped up, enjoying himself and clearly relishing being back on his favourite surface. That ab niggle in the third set of Sunday’s final was alarming to see, but his on-court post-match interview showed no signs of distress or fatigue – indeed, he didn’t even mention it in typical Murray fashion. The grass court season may be short, but Murray is ready to go deep.
This week has been a reminder to us all that Andy Murray should never be written off until the final bell has tolled. And I didn’t hear no bell.