Andy Murray returns - The mortal who won 2 Olympic golds that 3 demigods couldn't
In true epic fashion, 2-time Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray, an original member of the Big Four is set to return to Tokyo to defend his Olympic title for a record third time.
I feel the pressing urge in me to hail the Muses before I begin - isn't an invocation - perhaps to Calliope or Clio only customary, in this instance? Should I not compare 'them' to a summer's day; struggle to find enough adjectives, phrases, verbs and idioms to conjure the images of a certain Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray?
Help me, God, because this is sacred ground I plan to tread on. You see, before the Big Three really existed, there was the Big Four - appearing sequentially, rising to glory, one after the other, much like TS Eliot's Four Quartets, rolling Time past, Time present into an eternal Time future.
Yes, time has passed, time has pushed us to the present and we are still, years later still playing fiddle with the same set of names - Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. Curiously enough, we are still seeing these men, at least the first 3 of them, still playing in Grand Slams, oftentimes exhibiting superhuman traits (a sincere request to rewind and watch the semi-final clash between Rafa and Djokovic at the 2021 French Open, for this.)
With the Wimbledon Championships set to start from June 28 and the Tokyo Olympics right up ahead next month, from July 23, the calendar is already looking tight. Amidst all this - the figure of Andy Murray emerges - after having written himself off the tennis tour during January 2019, Sir Andy is back and still hungry like before.
He will play at the Wimbledon, the Grand Slam that made him King, before going on to Tokyo, in hopes of doing the unthinkable - defending his Olympic gold for the third time in a row, for Great Britain. In this feat, Andy Murray stands alone and no Federer, Nadal or Djokovic has been able to tamper with the Olympic greatness of this Brit, yet.
Andy Murray - a mere mortal in an empire of demigods?
Tennis, over the past two decades, courtesy of the Big Four - Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, has found itself rhyming in heroic couplets and epic similes, with glaring ease. The Big Four have time and again broken and amended every notion we had come to associate with tennis - as they practically, reinvented the game, escalating it with their divine touch.
While it has been historically, futile to even argue about the godliness of 20-time Grand Slam champion's Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and 19-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic, perhaps 2-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray's divinity has always been subject to maximum scrutiny. However much Sir Andy has tried - the chinks in his armour has managed to show time and again, no amount of fairy dust has been able to do a good fix-up job.
Yet, Andy Murray has come back - most miraculously, after almost deciding to hang up the racquet during the 2019 Australian Open, breaking down inconsolably into tears. Riddled with a hip injury, Murray's career was facing a real threat and the British player almost decided to let it happen. However, this isn't tennis like we knew it previously - this is the stuff of epics and medical miracles and Andy Murray is its mortal hero - aspiring for comebacks like the true Champion he is.
Andy Murray has slipped out of the GOAT debate
Long gone are the days when Andy Murray would tear up after losing to Roger Federer in 2012 at the Australian Open in straight sets and mumble, "I can cry like Roger, it's just a shame I can't play like him." By September that same year, Murray's reasons to cry were wiped out as he won his first ever US Open title in 2012, defeating friend-cum-rival Novak Djokovic. The Murray-reign had begun by then - he was actively challenging the Big Three and was very much a part of the GOAT debate.
However, injuries had left Andy Murray quite crippled throughout his career, making him even want to call it quits with the sport he loves so much. The 3-time Grand Slam champion, who boasts of 2-Olympic golds as well soon got left behind in the Slam-race as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic sprinted too far ahead and Murray, realistically cannot catch up anymore. The Big Four has now dissolved into the Big Three.
The GOAT debate most often lands up in the Grand Slam territory and the unspoken thought is that whoever has the most Slams is the GOAT, sadly. This would be too quick and an unfair judgement but it cannot be denied that Andy Murray has been overshadowed by the Big Three and their range of achievements. Therefore, Murray's name is no longer chanted in the GOAT debate but he does remain as one of the most 'aware' and 'feminist' players the sport has seen and in that regard - Andy Murray, often shy, often outspoken - is a GOAT, by his own right.
When asked about Murray, former player Raemon Sluiter told Eurosport that he had "nothing against Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, but Murray to me is the purest of them all. With him, what you see is what you get. The other three are very well aware of their surroundings. Murray is himself in every moment." A spark of mortality, anyone?
Can Andy Murray defend his gold for a third time at the Tokyo Olympics?
Once a regular member of the Big Four club, Andy Murray has fallen - and how, in the ATP rankings list to a lowly World No. 119. Time magazine once described the tennis of Andy Murray as 'a concerto of arrhythmic disharmony' - reflecting on the machine-line drill he performed in his matches.
But, Andy Murray has been slowly clawing back into the circuit - still unsure, yet still very confident and eager to get back into the big tournaments, play in the deep stages. Many eyebrows have been raised - perhaps 'this' member of the quartet no longer fits? Sir Andy has taken it all in - the harshest of criticisms to the very best ones and has found the strength to come back again.
Fair enough, Rafael Nadal has an Olympic gold in men's singles from 2008 Beijing and Novak Djokovic has a bronze from the same while Roger Federer has a silver from the 2012 London Olympics, but it is Andy Murray who reigns supreme at the quadrennial Games.
In a strange manner, Andy Murray has enjoyed some of his best seasons during the Olympic Games - winning twice in a row, in 2012 and 2016, to mark the British supremacy in the sport. Murray might not have done much damage in the Grand Slam sector over the years but when it comes to the Olympics - none of the Big Three have been able to match with this 3-time Grand Slam champion.
Heading into the Tokyo Olympics, the odds are not too much in the favour of Andy Murray, honestly. He hasn't played competitively as much as he would have liked to and it has been a while - since he played a match against the Big Three, who are still stomping around. This puts him at a disadvantage as this Murray is not the same as the 2012 and 2016 versions.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Andy Murray reflected, "There's a lot of people telling me to stop playing tennis, that it's sad, and they don't want to see me playing like this, and he can't stay fit, and he can't do this, why is he still doing this," he expressed. "And I say, 'Don't be sad for me! I like doing this, and I'm choosing to do it. No one's forcing me.' Sport is a strange one. People seem desperate for you to retire and stop doing what it is that you love doing."
But, this is still tennis of an epic nature and impossible things have been seen in it and therefore entirely ruling out the chances of Andy Murray isn't going to be fair or poetically wise. Rather, to see Murray - the mere mortal, dare to step back and dream of the big matches once again, is what is truly inspiring. He may not have won the GOAT debate, but Sir Andy is one of the greatest of all time, let there be no doubt about it.
"If you love doing something, why would you stop just because you're not doing it as well as you once did? Yes, criticise my performances and tell me I'm rubbish, that's fine. But I'll keep going until I can't any more, because this is what I love," Andy Murray mentioned in his interview with The Guardian.
We cannot help but love him more, precisely for this attitude. As Sir Andy opens his Wimbledon campaign and prepares to represent Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics as the defending Olympic champion - we wish the stars would conspire a little and let this mere mortal have his day on the courts too - nobody deserves it more than him.