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Andy Murray: ‘I’m at my highest ranking since the operation. I’m really proud of that’

Just a few minutes after his devastating five-set second‑round defeat by Stefanos Tsitsipas at Wimbledon this year, Andy Murray was inconsolable as he arrived before the press. Murray had spent the prior months working tirelessly with the belief he had positioned himself for a positive run on home soil. Instead, despite leading by two sets to one overnight, he could not close it out. Asked if he would be back at Wimbledon next year, Murray said he did not know.

But tennis never stops. One of the fundamental requirements of being a professional tennis player is learning how to swiftly move on from victories and defeats, focusing on the present and looking back only in service of improvement.

 

 

After wallowing in his defeat for some days, Murray reappeared as a spectator for the Wimbledon final as Carlos Alcaraz defeated Novak Djokovic. He instinctively found himself at work again, taking videos of both players while thinking about how he could apply their decision-making to his own game. Around the same period, he converged with his team and they worked through frank conversations about his approach to his game.

“I wasn’t that happy with how I played in the [Tsitsipas] match, to be honest,” Murray says. “I made some changes to my game after the match, had a couple of long, long chats with my team about how I wanted to improve the shots that I wanted to improve and, if I’m going to win those matches and compete at the highest level, how it is I need to go about doing that.”

 

 

Both the match, an excellent spectacle against the current world No 4, and Murray’s reaction to the defeat only further underlines the fascinating position he occupies at this point in his career. Murray is now ranked No 36 in the world, his highest ranking since his hip resurfacing surgery in 2019, and he is undoubtedly playing his best tennis since his hip issues threatened his career.

 

 

From the perspective of one of this generation’s greatest tennis players, who has won grand slam titles and stood as the best player in the world right as his hip crumbled, this is insufficient. But as a 36‑year‑old who continues to play tennis with a resurfaced metal hip and has toiled for four years since, making steady, consistent improvements across this period just to return to the top 50, he is also aware that this has been an immense effort and few in his position would have even made it back to this point.

 

 

Every time he plays, Murray has to balance those contrasting viewpoints, maintaining perspective while convincing himself that he should be achieving more: “Obviously, I’d like to be doing better. I would like to be ranked higher. I’d like to have had more runs at the bigger events and everything. But also, I have to try at times, you have to keep things in perspective. I’m at my highest ranking I’ve been since I had the operation on my hip. I’m really proud of that.

 

 

“I had that operation a really long time ago. It has taken lots and lots of hard work and effort to get back to the top 40 in the world and I still feel like before the year’s out that I can push that even higher. I don’t think that this is like the limit for me. I do think that I can get myself much higher.”

Murray’s record against the best players in the world this year further underlines that belief. In 2023 Murray has a 3-2 record against top‑20 opponents, while two of his three top‑10 matches – against Tsitsipas and Taylor Fritz – have gone down to the wire. He is moving far better than it ever seemed possible back in 2018 and his body is recovering from long, arduous matches. While he could barely keep his body together in 2021, with the exception of his withdrawal from the French Open he has played a full schedule. But he has also been inconsistent on the ATP tour, inefficient against lower‑ranked players and he has struggled to close out top opponents.

 

 

“I think that the players I played against probably feel a similar way – that I’m not playing 40‑in‑the‑world level tennis,” Murray says. “I do think that I’m playing a better level than that. And that’s the thing that’s positive for me, and the thing that keeps me going, providing that I keep learning and improving and working on the right things, my ranking will keep going up and I’ll win more matches against the best players.”

One month on from the conclusion of Wimbledon, the unending tennis season has taken Murray to North America. At the ATP 500 in Washington, he reached the third round before narrowly losing against the world No 9 and top seed, Fritz, in three tight sets. Murray played bold, attacking tennis, providing himself with ample chances in the third set for what would have been a brilliant win. Once again, he couldn’t finish it off. Still, Murray left Washington satisfied with his progress.

 

 

“I was much happier, even though I lost the match against Fritz in Washington, in terms of the way that I played the match and approach to some of the shots in my game that I’ve been working on, usually it can take a little while. You can work on something for a couple of weeks usually, and for it to feel good straight away. But some of the stuff I’ve been working on sunk in pretty quick and that’s been really positive.”

A week later, Murray followed up the performance by reaching the third round of the Toronto Masters 1000 event, setting up an intriguing match with Jannik Sinner, the eventual champion. Instead, Murray was forced to withdraw from the match because of an abdominal injury.

 

 

As we spoke in Cincinnati on a rain-swept Monday morning, Murray was still waiting for the rain to dry in order to practise and decide whether he will compete in Ohio or withdraw in order to recover before the US Open. Either way, he continues to march on, his ambitions undimmed.

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