As Andy Murray looked on amid the joyous and emotional scenes that greeted Roger Federer’s farewell to tennis at the Laver Cup in London last weekend, the two-time Wimbledon champion appeared to ponder when he will step into the sporting afterlife.
No player has fought harder to extend their career than Murray in recent years, with the Scot undergoing hip surgery in 2019 and defying medical experts by making a return to the singles court.
Murray’s current ATP ranking of 47 is commendable given all he has been through in recent years, yet his performances in 2022 have failed to confirm he can still be a force on the game’s biggest stages.
With a young family at home, Murray’s drive to travel the world and compete at the game’s biggest events is driven by his belief that he still has days of glory left in him, but there was a sense that his belief may have been waning a little after two defeats in the Laver Cup.
A singles defeat against Alex de Minaur was backed up by a loss alongside Matteo Berrettini in the doubles on Sunday, with Murray’s failure to register a point a significant factor in his side’s shock defeat against John McEnroe’s Team World.
His apparent inability to fire his once lethal backhand to hurt De Minaur was evident for all present for that match, as his enduring singles contest delayed the farewell appearance for Federer alongside Rafael Nadal.
It was the kind of tense match Murray always used to win, yet the current chapter of his career is littered with examples of close matches that he has failed to turn in his favour and he could be forgiven for doubting whether this recurring flaw is guiding him towards his own retirement decision.
Murray suggested that his time back with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic had given him a chance to reflect on what he describes as his ‘small part’ in the greatest era in tennis history, with these words confirming he has been close to retirement himself during his recent battles with injuries.
“I found myself thinking a lot about these last sort of 10, 15 years more than I probably have done before,” he said in a press conference at the 02 Arena.
“When I was going through some of the injury problems, I didn’t know if I was going to play, I was thinking about it from my own perspective.
Utterly ridiculous from @andy_murray
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“But maybe looking at it more in a broader perspective, like thinking about what Roger’s done for the game and what Rafa and Novak, as well, and what this period has been like, it has been special.”
When asked whether the remarkable scenes that greeted Federer’s exit inspired Murray to consider his own future in the game, he was quick to sidestep a question that he will have to confront sooner rather than later.
“I’m not thinking that way at the moment, but it has been an emotional few days for all of us in the team and that might explain why I feel so tired,” added Murray.
“I’m not going to have a farewell match like Roger. I probably would announce when I’m going to play my last event and stuff, but when that is, I don’t know.
“I’m still playing competitive tennis and physically feeling good against top players. I just need to start really turning some of these tight losses and close matches into wins. It’s as simple as that.”
It has been clear for some time that Murray lacks the knock-out blows that allowed him to win some of the most glittering prizes in tennis and unless he rediscovers them soon, Britain’s greatest sportsman of all time may be next to follow Federer into retirement.