Wimbledon 2021: "Really good tennis and some pretty bad moments" - Andy Murray reflects on his Wimbledon week
It moves on to Tokyo. The great Scot is competing for Team GB at the delayed Olympics and, despite the huge disappointment of defeat to Canada’s Denis Shapovalov he’s ready for the Games - testing, restrictions, curbs to his movement, the lot.
“I would rather not be in bubbles and stuff but I’m also okay with them,” he said. “Normally for tournaments, of course, I wouldn’t be getting the Covid things up my nose every couple of days and probably in the evenings I’d be going out for dinner but the rest of the time it’s hotel, courts, gym. I don’t really go out exploring the cities so I haven’t really minded the bubbles and I know things are going to be strict in Tokyo but I’m alright with that, it’s fine.”
But what about life, and tennis, beyond the Olympics? What about the curbs to his movement caused by his metal hip? Are his injury-bedevilled four years away from serious singles action a curb to there being any more thrilling Wimbledon nights? These were the tougher questions but at least Murray took them on.
Was he more, or less, optimistic about the future now? “Well, I got through a week of Slam without getting injured, so that’s a positive. There were moments of, I think, really good tennis [but] mixed in with some pretty bad moments. Positive that I came through without getting hurt but, yeah, negative, I guess. I feel I can do better, tennis-wise.”
Can do better and will have to do better, no question. Murray’s game needs to be “spot-on”, both for personal pride but also if he’s going to compete with the next generation like Shapovalov, 12 years his junior, with the latter admitting he needed a career-best performance to win on Friday - “flawless,” he called it.
Murray located another plus point: “Look, it was great playing in front of crowds again. I got amazing support here and I’m very thankful for that. It’s something I’ve missed and it reminds you of why you do the work and everything.
“But on the flip side there’s a part of me that feels like: “I’ve put in so much work these last three months and ultimately didn’t play how I would want and expect … is it worth it?
“I played in a brilliant atmosphere here and there will be great memories. But I finished this match and I was saying to my team: ‘I’m not happy with how I played.’ So unless we can find a way of keeping me on the court for a consistent period of time and allow me to practice the way I need to compete [with the likes of Shapovalov] then that’s when the discussions about what I do next will come in.”
That might sound like Murray at his gloomiest though surely it’s him being realistic. But it should be stressed that equal time in his post-match media conference was given to the good things about his return to the scene of his two Wimbledon titles and his first singles matches for four years. There is no contradiction either in the “work” he’d done to get back to the championships and the “practice” still needed; they’re different things.
“I need time on the practice court and I need time on the match court - I’ve had neither in the last few months,” he said. “I need matches and I need momentum to compete at the highest level. A run of matches and more time on the practice court if I want to improve my game, which clearly I need to.”
Murray played Queen’s to get ready for Wimbledon but the former needed its own build-up and “one practice set is really bad preparation” when he hadn’t played singles on grass since 2017.
He analysed the three matches at the All-England: “I should really have been off the court in three sets against [Nikoloz] Basilashvili. No excuse for what happened in that match. You need all your reserves to conserve as much energy as you can in these tournaments [Murray’s understandably not yet back to optimum level]. I messed up there.
“Then I was a set and a break up against [Oscar] Otte and I lost three games on the spin and was then two sets to one down. [Without] those sorts of things I could have put myself in a much better position going into the next match.”
For Shapovalov he didn’t practice the day before, presumably having decided that resting up after a five-setter and a late finish was the better option. “That’s something I’ve never really done in my career [before]. During Slams I would always come in and hit some balls and [in readiness for facing a player with Shapovalov’s skill-set] hit some returns against a lefty serve. Obviously I came out and I started slow. So I was then thinking: ‘I should have practiced yesterday … ’”
Should have done this, could have done that, might have levelled from 1-5 down in the first set and then, who knows how the match might have turned? So many questions, but one thing is certain: that he returned to Centre at all was remarkable. That he thrilled us all over again was a brilliant bonus.
Whether Murray wants, or feels he can achieve more, are matters for another day. First: “I want to go home and see my family. I’ve missed them.”
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