Andy Murray retires: The Scot was born into tennis' golden era but instead of letting it defeat him, he used it to make him great

Having covered Murray's entire career, Paul Newman looks back on how a man faced with the greatest challenges men's tennis has ever seen overcame them all to win on the biggest stages

Emotional Andy Murray says Australian Open could be last tournament after struggling to recover from hip surgery

By anyone's standards, a haul of three Grand Slam titles, two Olympic singles gold medals, one Davis Cup and 41 weeks as the world No 1 is a record to be immensely proud of.

But when you consider the context of the incredible era in which Andy Murray through no fault of his own was forced to compete, it is no wonder that he will go down in the history books as not only Britain’s greatest tennis player but indisputably one of the finest sportsmen the country has ever produced.

Had Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic not been around as Murray’s biggest rivals then there is not one iota of doubt that he would have won even more trophies, possibly even complete the career Grand Slam, but you would never hear the Scot complain of ill luck. Murray, as fierce a competitor as they come, has enjoyed every minute competing against three of the finest players ever to have picked up a tennis racquet.

While Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will all likely be remembered as greater players than Murray – as will plenty of others from past eras – he knows that without the challenge they posed he would not have become the wonderful competitor who became an integral part of the “Big Four”.

While Federer has been the sport’s most elegant and destructive shot-maker, Nadal its most ferocious competitor and Djokovic its best all-round athlete, Murray has been the greatest tactician of his era. His cunning drop shots, wicked lobs, clever variations of pace and spin and counter-attacking prowess have befuddled opponents ever since he won the US Open junior title in 2004.

Murray’s appetite for hard work and his mental strength have helped him to bounce back from repeated setbacks, including eight losses in Grand Slam finals (three to Federer and five to Djokovic).

He lost in four Grand Slam finals before winning the US Open in 2012 and suffered regular disappointments at Wimbledon – three successive losses in semi-finals followed by defeat to Federer in the 2012 final - before becoming the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the singles title at the All England Club.

He also fought back from back surgery in 2013 before going on to his greatest triumphs, only to have his career eventually curtailed by the hip injury which has dogged him for the last year and a half.

For a time Murray was indisputably the best player in the world. His superhuman efforts in 2016, when he won 24 matches in a row at the end of the year, took him to the top of the world rankings, where he stayed for more than eight months.

Hip injury could force Sir Andy Murray into retirement

One year before becoming world No 1, Murray led his country to their first Davis Cup triumph for 79 years, winning all 11 rubbers he played. Playing for his country always brought the best out of Murray, who won Olympic gold in the singles at Wimbledon in 2012 and in Rio in 2016.

Comparing athletes across different sports is always tricky, but it is safe to say that Murray deserves his place in any conversation about Britain’s greatest ever sportsmen and sportswomen alongside the likes of Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Ian Botham, Steve Redgrave, Sebastian Coe, Kelly Holmes, Rebecca Adlington and Victoria Pendleton.

Although a section of the British sporting public never took to Murray because they did not like his on-court scowls and apparent grumpiness, the number of critics dwindled over the years with the realisation that underneath the gruff exterior was a warm heart and a hugely committed competitor. Murray’s tears after his loss to Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final probably did more for his public appeal than any of his victories.

Murray will also be remembered for his championing of women’s sport. His decision to appoint Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in succession to Ivan Lendl was a ground-breaking moment in tennis.

Until now Murray has thrown all his energy into his playing career, but for the sake of tennis it is to be hoped that he will continue to play a prominent role in the sport.

Although he has had experience as a players’ representative with the Association of Tennis Professionals, it is hard to envisage him pursuing a career in sports administration. However, with his great tactical brain he would clearly have huge potential as a coach.

Murray's crowning glory was winning Wimbledon in front of a boisterous home crowd (AFP/Getty Images)

Whether he would want to continue living out of a suitcase, nevertheless, is another matter. Murray has two young children and, like all successful players, has had to make huge personal sacrifices in his career.

The Scot will have no shortage of future opportunities. He made his debut in the TV commentary booth at Wimbledon last summer and would be an obvious choice as a future Davis Cup captain. He is already involved in the business of sport: his management company handles the careers of Aidan McHugh and Katie Swan, two of the country’s most promising young tennis players, as well as some athletes and footballers.

Murray knows, however, that he is unlikely to find anything as fulfilling in his professional life as his experiences over the last decade and more playing at the highest level of his sport. For the sporting public, too, it will leave a huge void, but the memories will be indelible.

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