Murray bows out in last ever match (or was it?)

End of an era: Murray lost the match 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (4-7), 6-2 to Roberto Bautista Agut.

Sir Andy Murray lost in the first round of the Australian Open yesterday after an epic five-set battle, which might spell the end for a career marked by determination and hard-won greatness.

Sir Andy Murray may have played his last professional tennis match, after losing to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round of the Australian Open yesterday.

Murray fought bravely against the hip injury that has blighted his last two years. He came back from two sets down to tie the match, before Agut won five straight games to end the contest and, possibly, Murray’s career.

Fighting back tears, Murray raised his arm in acknowledgement as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

“If this was my last match, it was an amazing way to end,” he said afterwards. “I literally gave everything I had.”

The five-set duel was a fitting end for a player set apart by his gritty fighting spirit. In an era dominated by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, three of the greatest players of all time, Murray’s brilliance has often been overshadowed. His defensive style does not have the flair and elegance of the “big three”.

Nevertheless, Murray has collected an impressive list of achievements: three Grand Slams, including an end to the 77-year wait for a British male Wimbledon champion; two Olympic golds; Britain’s first win in the Davis Cup for 79 years; a knighthood; and a nine-month stint as world number one.

In an emotional press conference last week, the Scot said he will retire after Wimbledon in July, after struggling to recover from hip surgery. It now looks unlikely he will make it that far.

Murray learnt the value of determination as a child in Dunblane, playing with his elder brother Jamie.

“He was always better than me growing up,” Murray once admitted. “That is what it comes down to: you need to want to work hard for something.”

When he first appeared at Wimbledon in 2005, the British public did not immediately warm to the young player. He was accused of being temperamental during matches, while, off the court, Murray’s dry wit was often mistaken for grumpiness.

Now a national treasure, Murray has also distinguished himself as a feminist, championing the women’s game and hiring a female coach. Yesterday, journalist Jacob Stenberg wrote that Murray is “a fine example of what masculinity should be in 2019.”

And this might not be goodbye. “Maybe I’ll see you again,” he said yesterday. “I’ll do everything possible to try.”

True grit

Is Andy Murray Britain’s greatest sportsman? He has three Grand Slam titles while the “big three” have more than 50 combined, but he has arguably shown more grit than anyone. Are his achievements more admirable because he had to work harder for them? Or is sport simply about being the best?

Does someone have to be likeable to be truly great? Many of us love Murray for his sense of humour, sincerity and championing of others.

You Decide

  1. What qualities make a great sportsperson?
  2. Are team sports or individual sports better?

Activities

  1. Write your own rankings for the top five sportspeople of all time. What have you based your decision on? Discuss and compare your rankings in pairs.
  2. Read about Murray’s match yesterday and write a short news report explaining what happened and why it is important.

Some People Say...

“There is a fear of emotion in tennis.”

Andy Murray

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Sir Andy Murray lost his first round match in the Australian Open to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, in what might be the last game of his career. Last week, Murray announced he hoped to retire after Wimbledon, but may be forced to bow out sooner due to a hip injury that required surgery last year.
What do we not know?
Whether yesterday’s match really was his last ever. His limp became more visible throughout the game, suggesting that he is still struggling with hip pain. We also don’t know what he will do in the future. Upon hearing of Murray’s imminent retirement, legendary women’s player Billie Jean King said “your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come,” and others have expressed hope that Murray may get involved in coaching, commentating, or promoting British and women’s tennis.

Word Watch

Sir
Murray was awarded a knighthood in 2016, the year that he won Wimbledon for the second time.
Dunblane
In 1996, Murray was in a classroom at Dunblane Primary School when a gunman entered the school hall and shot 15 pupils and one teacher dead, in one of the UK’s worst massacres. The incident led to stricter gun laws in the UK.
Jamie
He has been awarded an OBE for his own achievements as a doubles player, including multiple Wimbledon titles. The brothers played together in the Davis Cup.
Grumpiness
He was accused of being anti-English when he joked about wanting “anyone but England” to win the World Cup.
Feminist
Murray became the first top male player to hire a female coach, Amelie Mauresmo, in 2014. He has also argued for equal prize money for men and women, repeatedly called out commentators and journalists when the achievements of female players have been ignored, and called on Wimbledon to put more women’s matches on Centre Court.

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