‘Andy Murray has changed the culture of sport’: Wimbledon reflects on his legacy

‘Andy Murray has changed the culture of sport’: Wimbledon reflects on his legacy
‘Andy Murray has changed the culture of sport’: Wimbledon reflects on his legacy

yoThe day has finally arrived: Andy Murray has played his final match at Wimbledon. The 37-year-old Scot, Britain’s greatest post-war tennis player, was due to contest the mixed doubles with Emma Raducanu, the surprise 2021 US Open champion, last night. To say there was excitement for the pairing would be an understatement: fans have been inventing compound names (Raducandy, Em&M, Maducanu) since the unexpected pairing was announced on Wednesday. Roger Federer was in the stands, ready to watch.

But Em&M was not to be. “Unfortunately, I woke up with some stiffness in my right wrist,” Raducanu announced on Saturday afternoon, “so I have decided to make the difficult decision to withdraw from tonight’s mixed doubles. I am disappointed because I was really looking forward to playing with Andy, but I have to be careful.”

It wasn’t mentioned, but another issue is likely to have been the scheduling of her first-round match — the final match on Court No. 1. A potential 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. start time might have been optimal for television viewership but would have been more challenging for Raducanu, who returns to Wimbledon on Sunday for her fourth-round singles match against Lulu Solar, the world No. 123 of New Zealand.

Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu’s names are removed from the order of play as Raducanu announces her retirement from mixed doubles on day six of Wimbledon 2024. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Photos

“The schedule wasn’t the best,” Raducanu said Friday, after learning when she and Murray would play. Asked if she had been consulted about the decision, she said: “No. I just walked off the court and found out for myself.”

The news will come as a bitter blow to Murray, the men’s champion at Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016. A week before the tournament, he had surgery on a cyst on his spine, the latest in a long series of serious injuries. Most experts estimate his recovery time at around six weeks, but he somehow almost made it to the starting line for the singles last week. Instead, on Thursday, Murray played in the men’s doubles with his brother Jamie. There were flashes of greatness from Andy, but the Murrays lost in straight sets.

Wimbledon and the BBC gave Murray an emotional farewell, but he made it clear how sad he was to retire. “I want to play forever,” Murray told Sue Barker on court. “I love the sport. I don’t want to stop.” There were fleeting hopes yesterday that Murray might find an alternative partner for the mixed doubles, but under tournament rules a player cannot be re-partnered.

Raducanu’s withdrawal has accelerated the conversation about Murray’s legacy. On Saturday, Billie Jean King praised him for bringing “credibility and excitement to British tennis” and said a statue at Wimbledon would be “fitting”. But King primarily called on the Scottish government and the LTA to help the Murray family realise their plan to build a community tennis centre outside their hometown of Dunblane – “run as a charitable trust”, she said on social media, “with the aim of making tennis affordable, accessible and fun for all”.

Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray. Photography: Rex/Shutterstock

For BBC commentator Andrew Fort, Murray will leave this year’s Wimbledon tournament with “mixed feelings.” “Not everyone who deserves it gets a grand send-off,” he says. “But he deserves one, and he got it on Thursday night.”

As for Murray’s legacy, Fort believes we will continue to see his impact for years to come. “He has already contributed to every British success you can see,” he says. “He has changed the culture of sport in this country – he, his brother and others. But it is only when he is finally retired that we will realise the magnitude of his achievements and influence.”

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Raducanu, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back strongly this afternoon. It’s hard to blame her for her caution, especially since she had surgery on both wrists (and one ankle) in May 2023 and was unable to play competitively for eight months. (So far, there has been no comment from Murray’s team, though there was a striking tweet from Judy Murray, who responded to the “shocking news” of Raducanu’s withdrawal with a curt “Yes, surprising.”)

Still, Raducanu, who is the only British player left in the singles draw after yesterday’s losses to Cameron Norrie and Harriet Dart, made an appearance on the Wimbledon practice courts yesterday, wearing an England football shirt.

Although she came into the tournament as a wild card, ranked 135th in the world, she has shown irresistible form in the first week and is now one of the favourites. She is very likely to beat Solar this afternoon.

Fort firmly believes Raducanu is the real deal. “Look, she’s different,” he says. “You don’t do what you did at the US Open unless you’re different, and she is. I don’t know how many people completely wrote her off, at least the people who really know what they’re talking about. But here she is, she’s emerged. And this is the beginning.”

 
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