Many have written Andy Murray off. They say he’s past it, not the player he was, or simply too old and too fragile physically to compete at the highest level of tennis ever again. But then, the Scot has never been anything if not a fighter. Time and again we have seen Murray put in the hard graft to return from setbacks and injuries, and although his current problems are his worst yet, the 33-year-old’s strength of character means that he can never be written off.
Murray will have been given a confidence boost by his performances at the recent Cincinnati Masters, held in New York, where he reached the third round. Such an exit may seem unimpressive to those who would expect Murray to be reaching the latter stages of tournaments like he used to, but it was the manner of his performances that earned him acclaim.
Notably, he defeated the fifth seed at the event, Alexander Zverev, in round two – the kind of scalp Murray will take as a huge positive as he moves forward. Unfortunately he couldn’t repeat the trick against Milos Raonic, losing in straight sets, but it was enough to give Murray hope that he perhaps still has what it takes to challenge the elite.
Although Murray was left bitterly disappointed by his performance against Raonic, he was able to accept that he made positive strides in terms of his return. He said: “The positive is I got three matches in, and physically, in terms of my hip, felt good. Played a couple of long ones, as well. Got through them.”
The test currently facing him is to continue that good showing at the US Open, where the physical challenge is all the more demanding due to the five-set matches played at Grand Slam events. While many might have fancied Murray in the US Open tennis odds at a price of 66/1 to win the competition, it would be a major surprise were he to pull off such a feat, with a long way to go in the tournament to realise that dream.
Murray’s anger at his performance against Raonic was a good sign that he is still holding himself to the highest possible standards. While few expect him to do serious damage at the US Open, you can bet that he’ll be expecting the best of himself throughout the tournament. Murray knows that his very best is still more than good enough to win a Grand Slam, and it could prove that returning to the event where he won his first Grand Slam title could inspire him to a deep run in the tournament.
It’s important that he takes it one step at a time. The last thing anyone wants to see is another injury setback for Murray after the nightmarish three years he has had in terms of his hip problems. Grand Slam tennis is notoriously demanding, so for Murray it will be about taking things one step at a time, one set at a time, and one match at a time. And maybe, just maybe, there’ll be glory at the end of it.