My brave pal MUST play one final Wimbledon: Boris Becker on why Sir Andy’s legions of fans need him to carry on
This is a heartbreaking moment — not just for Andy and the tennis-crazy Murray family, but for the entire world of tennis.
What makes him so special is that not only has he competed at the highest level of the game, but he has won again and again and again.
Yes, he is the greatest British player since Fred Perry. But he’s also one of the greatest players of the past decade.
Andy has had the misfortune — although I hope he’ll eventually come to see it as a privilege — to play at a time when tennis has been dominated by two of the greatest players the game has ever seen — Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — with a third, Novak Djokovic, not far behind.
Boris Becker (pictured above watching Andy Murray at 2016’s Wimbledon)
That’s why, for me, his greatest achievement was his 2016 end-of-season win over Djokovic at the ATP World Tour Finals which made Andy the world No 1.
It was a very painful moment for me, because I was Novak’s coach. But it was a stunning and richly deserved triumph for Andy.
As we now know, though, it was an achievement that came at tremendous physical cost.
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For while the muscular Nadal punched his way to the top and the elegant Federer finessed his way there, Andy had to fight all the way, contesting every point with blood, sweat and those famous Murray tears.
He played that way because he had to. I say this with the utmost respect but the truth is that he isn’t the most naturally gifted player. Yet he has a massive heart and, after a great deal of gym work, the physical strength of a lion. Unlike players who rely on their serve, Andy’s game centres on his speed and footwork.
That is why he needs to be 100 per cent fit. It’s no good for him to be 75 per cent.
Following the press conference, Murray posted a heartfelt message to fans and his mother Judy Murray (above)
Andy — ‘Sir Andy’, as I call him when I want to tease him — plays up to his image as ‘boring’ but, in fact, he’s anything but. In private, he’s funny, tremendously well liked and a man of principle.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that he was the first top male player to employ a female coach — the French former world No 1 Amelie Mauresmo — and that he’s been a consistent champion of gender equality, campaigning for equal prize money for male and female players.
But now Andy has reached the awful moment that all top sportsmen and women dread, when they realise that their worn-out body will no longer allow them to compete at the very top level.
Andy Murray (pictured above) won the 2013 Wimbledon singles title
Every one of us has only one body. And we must look after it. I retired after breaking my ankle at the same age — 31 — as Andy is now. In hindsight, I should have stopped earlier but, in the heat of the moment, I always wanted to play the next round or the next event. Today, I’m paying a heavy price. I have two new hips. My right ankle isn’t perfect. I have a limp. These are my battle scars.
As for Andy, as a three-time Wimbledon champion myself, I offer him one bit of serious advice:
I realise that your body is hurting and your spirits are desperately low. But please resist, if you possibly can, any thoughts to call it a day immediately.
Andy Murray (pictured above) needs to play one last Wimbledon, according to Boris Becker
Instead, cut right back on your tournament schedule, look after that poor, pain-wracked body of yours, but don’t quit right away.
As I did 20 years ago, it is vital that you play your last match at your spiritual home, Wimbledon, the scene of three of your greatest tournament triumphs.
Your legions of fans need to say an emotional goodbye to you. And you, too, must bid farewell to the game you have loved on the square of grass that you have graced so wonderfully: Centre Court. If you don’t, you will regret it for the rest of your life.
So what next?
There will be a painful period of adjusting to not playing. Let your lovely wife Kim take care of you, while you also take care of her and your two daughters.
After that, the media will be clamouring to employ you for decades to come, but, knowing you and the sort of man you are, I think you will want — and possibly need — a more serious job as well.
He may be bowing out as a top player but, take it from me, the Andy Murray story is far from over.
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