Here’s what the international press wrote about Andy Murray after his brave comeback in the first round of the Australian Open - coming just days after he announced he may have to retire due to his hip injury - fell short against Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
“The sun was declining on the court. The light was softer, the rays less burning. Melbourne was advancing in the night. And Andy Murray to his destiny. In the Arena, nobody wanted this evening to end,” it read in French paper L’equipe. “With the noisy standing-ovation awaiting him as he entered the Melbourne Arena, Andy Murray was able to gauge that his popularity rating, contrary to his physical condition, was at a zenith.”
“The limping and escalating gait, reminiscent of a story by Dickens. The grimaces, the ‘aaahhh ...’, ‘ouuuch ...’, ‘mmfffhhh ..’ moan at each stroke. And the handcuffs on the right thigh, eyes turned to heaven at every mistake. After so much gold collected for the world, [he appeared to be carrying] a load of coal, of bricks to be transported,” wrote Stefano Semeraro for Italian paper La Stampa
Sam McClure, writing for Australian publication The Age, described the first round loss as a moment sports fans should remember for a long time: “The meaning of “going out with a bang” may well have been re-defined. As of late Monday night, the sporting dictionary should point to the first round exit of world number 230 Andy Murray in the 2019 Australian Open.”
After the match Murray was treated to a video tribute where the stars of service lavished him with praise, which seemed a little awkward for the Scot who had only just said moments before that he was trying to do everything to return to the court.
“Awkward? Just a bit. As fellow legends popped up on the Melbourne screen to wish him a happy retirement, Andy Murray looked uncomfortable at his own leaving-do,” wrote Paul Hayward in the Sydney Morning Herald.”If Murray could go back to his Friday press conference, one suspects he would do it differently.”
Murray: The man
Kevin Mitchell of the Irish Times added a fine assessment on Murray’s character, even if he did take the Wikipedia entry of ‘Glasgow’ as his birthplace a little too literally.
He wrote: “In the original Scottish play, the one that superstition dictates dare not utter its name in the confines of its setting, the general comes to grief through hubris, something of which this son of Glasgow could never be accused. Here his honesty was written in every wince and gesture. It was like watching a performance with a sad ending and a familiar narrative, each twist and turn hurling him back from the edge of the stage for one more encore, the place he has been the past two years.”
Praise for his views on gender equality
A common theme that ran throughout the tributes to Andy Murray’s career, both in the UK and abroad, was the manner in which he championed women’s tennis and lobbied for equal rights. It is a legacy that should be looked upon as of equal of greater importance to what he achieved on the court, and something he can continue even when he hangs up his racquet.
Ben Rothenberg wrote for the New York Times: “The most distinct voices in the chorus of praise, however, were female. In interviews and news conferences and on social media over the years, Murray established himself as a champion for equality and for women’s tennis. In doing so, he became an ally to the WTA tour, whose players have long felt unappreciated and undervalued by many in the men’s side of the sport.”
Some of the European papers couldn’t help but compare him to the three other tennis greats of this time - Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. They implied that the ‘Big Four’ is a UK-centric way of looking at things.
“Behind the monotonous sound that gives off his Scottish accent and that appearance of permanent self-control, Andy Murray hides a beast,” wrote Alejandro Ciriza for Spanish publication El Pais. “Murray never managed to get rid of the unfair comparative that includes him in the maximum dimension of modern tennis, along with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic. From Great Britain the concept of the Big Four was propagated and emphasized, when the three mentioned wander in a stratum different from that of the Scot. However, this has always had the virtue of overcoming that diabolic nexus and has managed to dance with the giants despite measuring...less.”
There was mention of it also in Italian paper Corriere Della Sera, where Gaia Piccardi described the injury as “scorched for having forced too much to try to keep up with the Immortals,” before adding: “we will remember Andy Murray for the rockiness of a tennis court weathered in the Scottish Highlands but capable of flashes of light even on clay (the teens spent them in Spain brushing red), for the emotional tension of his match at the All England Club, able to derail England from five o’clock, and for the openness shown in choosing, in June 2014, a female coach (the former French number one Amelie Mauresmo).”
Where to go from here?
Murray has yet to fully make up his mind on what the immediate future will hold. For now he is stuck between two choices: try and make it to Wimbledon for one final goodbye while performing on one hip, or undergo more surgery in the hope of prolonging his career, but gambling that he may never make it back to the court.
“Tomorrow he will get up with the crumpled muscles, the screaming joints, he will decide if the amount of love and admiration, of respect and affection that all his colleagues have sent him, in a tribute with a vaguely posthumous taste transmitted on the big screen at the end of the match. the trouble of facing other such torture,” wrote Semeraro.
Hayward added: “Perhaps the shift in Murray’s head is to think he might be well enough to contest Wimbledon one last time after all. Only five days ago he was talking about the next round of surgery as a way of improving his “quality of life”. If his pain is that bad, he might be wise to head straight for the pantheon without stopping off at centre court.
“If it does turn out that way, we will always have sets three and four of the 2019 Australian Open to remind us of his essence. The defiance, the escapology and the gleam in his eye when the match started to swing back his way affirmed his love of battle.”