Andy Murray rejects retirement talk ahead of Aegon Championship
Quite how he got to this point, he is not sure, but he is keen to put the record straight: he is here to stay for as long as possible and, just in case anyone is interested, he thinks his game is getting better.
It all began with the BBC last week. Interrogating the clear-eyed, tanned (or as tanned as any fair-skinned lad from Dunblane is ever going to be) and well-muscled world No 1, the Beeb’s sports editor, Dan Roan, asked how long Murray thought he had left at the top of the game (two years was the answer but he was not sure then and is still not sure now).
Then, over the weekend, John McEnroe, pictured, weighed in with his view: Murray is a member of the Big Four, all right, but he is by far the poorest of the four. And Mac the Mouth still cannot believe that the Scot is at the top of the world rankings.
As welcomes home go, it all lacked a little warmth.
“Right now I’m ranked No 1 in the world and I’m talking about stopping playing; it’s a strange position to be in,” he said. “So long as I’m fit and healthy and enjoying playing I’ll do it as long as I can. I don’t want to stop in two years; I want to keep playing.
“Realistically, I want to make the most of the last few years of my career, if that’s two years, four years, or six years, it doesn’t matter. The point I’m trying to get across is I want to make the most of the last few years, if I can, if my body is good and I stay fit and healthy. I still enjoy the training, I enjoy the travelling, I love what I do, that’s not the issue, but you never know how you’re going to be in a couple of years physically. Right now, I feel good, but we’ll have to see how I am. It’s all hypothetical, I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow, never mind in three years.”
As for McEnroe’s opinions, Murray acknowledges that the career numbers do not lie: Roger Federer has 18 grand slam trophies, Rafael Nadal has 15 and Novak Djokovic has 12. Murray has three. But the Scot does have two Olympic gold singles medals and no other player in history, Big Four or no, can match that.
“If you look at the titles and everything those guys have won, I mean, I can’t compare myself to them,” Murray said. “There’s maybe one or two things that I have done that they won’t have, but for the most part I would have been fourth. That’s if you look at a whole career.
“But it’s not true of the last year because I’m ranked No 1 in the world. I’ve been better than them for the last 12 months, that’s how the ranking systems work. It took me a long time to get there. It’s not true of the last year but in terms of the career as a whole, then I would, if I could, swap careers with those guys. I obviously would because they’ve won a lot more than me.
“Everyone’s criteria for judging a player will be different. If it’s purely on grand slams, then my Olympic medals mean nothing to that person but they mean a lot to me.”
Tomorrow, Murray will start his Queen’s Club defence against Aljaz Bedene. Practice has been going well with Ivan Lendl in close attendance but Murray is still on edge. He is feeling better than he did before the French Open but there is still work to be done. He spent Monday and Tuesday getting used to the feeling of the grass beneath his feet and then started working flat out from Wednesday – and the work seems to be paying off.
“Obviously I am playing better now than I was before the French,” he said. “In practice, I am hitting the ball a lot better than I was before the start of the tournament there. B
“But there are still a lot of things I felt could be better in Paris. I was a lot closer to where I wanted to be but still far from where I wanted to be playing, so that is why I got back on to the practice courts so soon, to work on some things. The grass is a little bit more natural for me, which helps, but I have had to practise a lot this week.
“I am happier with where my game is at. But always going into a new period of the season on a different surface, there are always nerves about seeing how you adapt.”
Perhaps if he did not have to spend his free time discussing retirement, he might feel a little more settled. And no matter what the BBC or McEnroe think, the world No 1 is still the favourite to beat the world No 59 tomorrow.