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

The day finally came: Andy Murray has played his final match at Wimbledon. The 37-year-old Scot, Britain’s greatest postwar tennis player, had been due to contest the mixed doubles with Emma Raducanu, the shock 2021 US Open champion, yesterday evening. To say there was excitement about the pairing would be a wild understatement: fans have been coming up with portmanteau names (Raducandy, Em&M, Maducanu) ever since the unlikely team 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 very tough decision to withdraw from the mixed doubles tonight. I’m disappointed as I was really looking forward to playing with Andy, but got to take care.”

It wasn’t mentioned, but another factor was likely to have been the scheduling of their first-round: last match on No 1 Court. A potential 8pm or 9pm start time might have been optimal for TV audiences but would have been more challenging for Raducanu, who is due back at Wimbledon on Sunday for her fourth-round singles match against Lulu Sun, the world No 123 from New Zealand.

Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu’s names are removed from the order of play board as Raducanu announces her withdrawal from the mixed doubles during day six of Wimbledon 2024. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

“The scheduling of that was not ideal,” said Raducanu on Friday, after she learned when she and Murray would be playing. Asked if she had been consulted on the decision, she replied: “No. I just came off court and found out myself.”

The news will have a bitter sting for Murray, the men’s champion at Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016. A week before the tournament, he had surgery on a spinal cyst, the latest in a long string of serious injuries. Most experts put his recovery time at around six weeks, but he somehow almost made it to the start line for 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 a poignant send-off, but he made it clear how unhappy he was to be retiring. “I want to play for ever,” Murray told Sue Barker on court. “I love the sport. I don’t want to stop.” There were momentary hopes yesterday that Murray might find an alternative partner for the mixed doubles but, under tournament rules, one player cannot re-pair.

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

Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

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

As for the Murray legacy, Castle thinks we will be witnessing his impact for years to come. “He’s already contributed to every British success that you see,” he says. “He’s changed the culture of the sport in this country: him, his brother and others. But it’s only when he’s absolutely not going to play any more that we’ll realise quite the scale of the achievement and influence that he’s had.”

skip past newsletter promotion

Raducanu, meanwhile, will hope to rebound strongly this afternoon. It’s hard to blame her for her ­caution, especially since she had surgery on both her wrists (and one ankle) in May 2023 and was unable to play competitively for eight months. (There has been no comment from the Murray camp so far, though there was an eye-­catching tweet from Judy Murray, who responded to the ­“astonishing news” of Raducanu’s withdrawal with a dry “Yes, astonishing.”)

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

Although she arrived at the tournament as a wild card, ranked a lowly 135 in the world, she has been in irresistible form in the first week and is now one of the favourites. She will be heavily fancied to beat Sun this afternoon.

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

The Guardian