The Observer view on Andy Murray: the fallible player we took to our hearts

‘Sports people die twice” – this was the standout line from the new documentary Federer: Twelve Final Days, which tracked the Swiss player’s emotional sign-off from professional tennis in 2022. The idea is that there’s the death that is coming for all of us, when we take our final breath, but the top-level athlete fits in another one: when they retire. In some ways, this “death” can be even harder to come to terms with. How does it feel to know – for sure – that your greatest days are behind you?

Andy Murray – who has announced he will never play singles again – died his first death at Wimbledon last week. And the 37-year-old really went kicking and screaming: “It’s hard because I want to keep playing, but I can’t,” he told the crowd on Centre Court on Thursday. “Physically it’s too tough now. I want to play forever. I love the sport. I don’t want to stop.” For some watching, the occasion did feel like a bereavement. Spectators were in tears; there was talk of “grieving” and “trauma”. This is telling about what Murray has come to mean to us. In the greatest era of men’s tennis, he was the mortal sent to battle the holy trinity of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The fact that he sometimes prevailed was heartwarming and profound and stirring.

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But Murray was more than his tennis. We’ve learned a lot about him over these past 20 years, slowly coming to appreciate what a smart, principled and often witty man he is. His moral compass seems secure: it’s been telling how many tributes have come from female players, grateful that he was always in their corner.

So, yes, it was hard to watch this first iteration of Murray die. But, as he talked on Centre Court about his family, his four children, dropping thinly veiled hints that he will soon move into coaching, inspiring a new generation, there were chinks of hope that the mourning will be short-lived.

The Guardian