Andy Murray: He Came, He Served, He Conquered

Andy Murray (photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 5, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Wimbledon bid farewell to Andy Murray with an emotional tribute on Centre Court Thursday night.

On a day that had already featured Britain’s top two men’s and women’s players do battle on No. 1 Court, both won by the No. 2 players Cameron Norrie and Harriet Dart, the day concluded as the sun began to set with a first-round men’s doubles match featuring Murray and his older brother, Jamie, facing Rinky Hijikata and John Peers of Australia, won by the Aussies.

Regardless of the outcome, the momentous occasion gave Murray’s parents, mother Judy and father Will; as well as his wife Kim and their two oldest children, a chance to watch him and his brother play for the first time together at a Grand Slam. It also allowed Wimbledon and British tennis fans to salute Murray as he winds down his 19-year professional career.

Andy Murray, a two-time Wimbledon singles champion who helped bring glory back to British tennis as an earnest and relatable chap and champion, will make one last hurrah at the All England Club when he plays mixed doubles with compatriot Emma Raducanu on Saturday. For now, though, Thursday evening served as Wimbledon’s official farewell that came after the Murray brothers lost 7-6 (6), 6-4 in an hour and 28 minutes.

By all accounts, the 37-year-old Murray experienced mobility issues on court, less than two weeks after having surgery on a June 22 to remove a cyst from his back. It follows a trend of awful luck for him going back to 2018, when Murray underwent the first of two major hip operations. He came back from the second sporting a metal hip.

Although Murray won only one tournament after returning to competition, at Antwerp in 2019, unquestionably, he always gave it his best. As one tennis writer opined of Murray’s true grit and determination: “With every grueling match reminding fans of his champion’s will and unyielding passion.”

Before the on-court tributes commenced, Peers said in an on-court interview after the match: “Andy’s a true champion out here. Our words don’t do it justice, how good he is.” Added Hijikata: “It was an absolute honor to step on the court with him.”

Former British player and longtime BBC television presenter Sue Barker surprised everyone — including Murray — by handling the pomp and ceremony on court. It was a celebration of his career achievements, which included an insightful interview with Murray. Barker asked him about his first Wimbledon final in 2012, which he lost to Roger Federer.

“I’m not saying I’m the most outgoing or bubbly personality,” Murray quipped in his natural dry and acerbic but always sincere manner. “But I think people saw how much I cared about sports — for the first time, maybe.”

After Murray won the first of his three major titles at the US Open later in 2012, it was the next summer, in 2013, that Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in straight sets to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the Wimbledon singles title. In one afternoon, Murray had erased 77 years of British frustration. He won his second Wimbledon crown in 2016.

On hand Thursday evening to honor Murray were a who’s who of past, present and future tennis stars all lined up: John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Conchita Martinez, Iga Swiatek, Djokovic, Holger Rune, current British No. 1 Jack Draper, Daniel Evans and Tim Henman. A video tribute featured Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic as well as Venus Williams.

Between the players and the fans who filled Centre Court, there weren’t many dry eyes by the end of the 20-minute ceremony.

Afterward, during a news conference, Murray confirmed that the Paris Olympics will be his last tournament. “I know I could still win matches, but I don’t want to do that now,” he said.

Murray said he hopes tennis fans will remember him for his dedication to the sport. “I certainly didn’t always get it right. On match days, I was not perfect by any stretch, but I did always come into work and put in a good day. I gave my best effort,” he said.

“I know that it’s time now. I’m ready for that.”