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COMMENT: Asking Andy Murray to justify his right to play tennis is an exercise in the ridiculous

Mats Wilander caused a stir recently when he suggested it may be time for Andy Murray to retire, but is that any way to treat a legend?
Andy Murray at Roland Garros

For many, Andy Murray is Britain’s greatest ever sportsman. For others, he is a spent force shadow of his former self desperately clinging onto a tennis career that has been cruelly snatched away from him.

I count myself among the former. Murray’s achievements dwarf the return he could have expected when starting out in the game, and that is due to that intangible quality that only true champions possess.

That’s not to say Murray is not talented. Of course he is. Had he been a product of the Spanish, American, or Australian development system, it would have been a mere formality that he would have been the major force in the game that he has become.

Britain, though, with all due respect to the LTA, are not even remotely as prolific in producing top class tennis players as those countries. Tim Henman was good. Greg Rusedksi, though more a product of Canada, was better. Murray, has been immense.

That is why it was with surprise that I read of Mats Wilander’s view that Murray is delivering nothing but ‘false hope’ in his quest to return from the hip injury that decimated his career while he sat atop the world rankings three years ago.

Andy Murray backhand

“I worry about Andy Murray,” Eurosport expert Wilander said. “I would love to hear him say why he is out there, giving us a false sense of hope that he going to come back one day.

“I keep getting a little bit disappointed, is it his right to be out there doing that? Why? I did it and I shouldn’t have, it was the biggest mistake I did in my career.

“I think Andy Murray needs to stop thinking of himself and start thinking about who he was. Does he have a right to be out there taking wildcards from the young players?”

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Now, in all fairness, Mats Wilander knows more about tennis than I ever will. He can recognise an on-court strategy or atmospheric nuance far better than I ever will. That said, what I can recognise when I see it, is disrespect.

Whether that was the intended tone or not, it’s what was dripping from his comments.

Murray is someone who has given far more to tennis than most ever will. Most give their heart and soul to it, but Murray gave his body to it too.

Then, when a surgeon literally repaired his body by crafting replacement parts out of metal and hammering them with a mallet around his battered bones, Murray came back and is currently offering that body to tennis too.

Andy Murray serve US Open

Will he ever make it all the way back to what he was? Almost certainly not.

But that’s fine. He is 33-years-old now and wouldn’t be getting any better even without the injuries. The hip injury has ultimately robbed him of nothing but a couple of extra years at the top. He could have walked away three years ago and left with a greater career than that which 99% of players could ever have dreamed.

But the very least that Andy Murray has earned is the right to play tennis. Does Wilander think Murray is playing top-level tennis for the sake of it? Or with the expectation that he can recapture his finest years? Or to add to his already abundant personal wealth?

No – Andy Murray is playing tennis with a metal hip because Andy Murray loves tennis, and that is more reason than anyone should need to allow him to do it without judgement.

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