When you’ve achieved the kind of fame Andy Murray has, like it or not, your elevated status often spills over onto the home front.
Even the Scotsman’s four young children are beginning to catch on, mindful that their dad is someone of significant importance in the world of sports; one who just so happens to wield a tennis racquet for a living.
“My oldest one is aware. Now she’s six,” said Murray this week in Indian Wells, where he’s making his 13th appearance since his 2006 desert debut. “Sometimes she calls me ‘Andy Murray’, which I find incredibly awkward. I’m like, ‘No, I’m ‘Daddy’. I’m not ‘Andy Murray’, I’m ‘Daddy’. She does it now just to wind me up. She does it especially when she’s around her friends.”
On Friday afternoon in the desert, as he’s so often done before, Murray found a way to gut out a three-setter, defeating Japan’s Taro Daniel, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4, to become only the 18th man in tennis history to reach the 700-match-wins mark. It’s an impressive number in a career already shock-full of impressive numbers.
“It’s incredible,” said reigning US Open titlist Emma Raducanu, whom Murray fist-bumped on his way off the court. “Andy is such a class player. I think he’s just such a great role model for me and everyone from the UK and also across the world. Seven hundred wins is something I can just dream of. I think I’ve won three now, so I have a long way to go.”
Fellow Brit Cameron Norrie, the tournament’s defending champion, says it’s the three-time major champion’s ability to overcome adversity, not the gaudy stats, that means the most.
“It’s incredible given everything he’s been through, all the setbacks that he’s had, and he’s still waking up every day and going for it, leaving it all on the table,” said Norrie. “That’s stands out more — his attitude, his love and passion for the game. For me, it’s more impressive than all those wins. That speaks for itself, all the titles, all those wins, getting to No. 1, finishing no. 1 for the year. That’s sick. He’s a legend of the game. But what’s more outstanding is that attitude that he has and brings on a day-to-day basis.”
Murray’s bout with his body (back surgery in 2013, hip surgeries in 2018 and 2019) is well documented. The pain got so bad that, after a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2 loss to Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open in 2019, a tearful Murray announced his impending retirement. But after undergoing the knife again later that year, he opted to give it another go, a testament to his inner drive.
“It does mean a lot to me because I know how difficult it’s been, certainly the last few years,” said Murray after his turnaround against Daniel. “When you look at the players that have done it, most of the players that have won that many matches are certainly the best players of the last 30, 40 years. To be in amongst that is nice.”
“I’ve seen the players that are between 700 and 800, and there’s some amazing players that I watched when I was growing up as a kid, some that I’m aware are the best players that ever played the game,” he continued . “I would love to try and get there. I guess when you look at a number like that and you see it’s comparable to some of those guys, it makes you feel proud of your achievements and the matches that you’ve won in your career in what’s been an incredibly difficult era.”
Murray joked that after he hit the 600-win mark in Cincinnati in 2016 (def. Kevin Anderson, 6-3, 6-2), it took him five-and-a-half years to get the last hundred.
“It’s taken a while,” he laughed.
Asked, of the 700 wins, when he came the closest to perfection, Murray struggled to find an example.
There was the 2012 Olympics, of course, played on home ground at the All England Club. He would defeat world No. 1 Roger Federer, the same player who darkened his Wimbledon dreams only weeks earlier, in the gold-medal match, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. He went on to claim his first major title later that year in Flushing Meadows, then return to Wimbledon the following summer to finally put Fred Perry’s ghost to rest for good, ending a 77-year dry spell for British men on the lawns of SW19. An admitted perfectionist, Murray says that, even when he was playing 70-80 matches per year, there were only a handful in which he reached pique performance.
“There’s actually very few,” he confessed.
Pressed further for a definitive answer, he turned back to the clock to 2006, to a seemingly insignificant quarterfinal, 6-4, 6-7(0), 6-3 win over Finn Jarkko Nieminen at the Canada Masters.
However, if his golden moment against Federer wasn’t his epitome of perfection, it indeed proved the turning point of his career.
“When I lost that Wimbledon final in 2012 against Roger, there was still pressure building, questions getting asked about me and whether I could win a Grand Slam, whether that was possible,” Murray recalled. “I was asking myself those questions, as well.”
“I was working really hard to get there, and was not managing to quite get over the line. After that match against Roger in the 2012 Wimbledon final, I was obviously very upset for a few days after that, kind of accepted I guess that it might not happen, may not win a major. But what I could control was the effort and everything that I was putting into trying to keep going, keep improving. Winning that Olympics four weeks later in the final against Roger on the same court in the fashion that I did was a big, big step for me and my career.”
Murray will aim for win No. 701 on Sunday, when he faces tricky 31st seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, still in pursuit of perfection.