Tennis is a fickle game. The game can put a lot of wear and tear on a body, and for the most part, players historically have had to give up the top levels of the game in the early 30s. Now, there have been some exceptions to the rule – Andre Agassi and Jimmy Conners come to mind historically – but when a player’s body starts to break down on them, it is very difficult to regain past form. This is the conundrum facing Andy Murray today, and it is hard to say if he’ll ever make it back to top form.
The workout machine
These days, athletes are working just as hard off their court or field as they do on their actual skills in the game they play. This was definitely the case with Andy Murray, and the results were obvious. He had been putting in hours of off-court training to focus on both his endurance and his strength. The game of tennis has changed dramatically over the years, and while it is still a game that focuses on angles and speed, power and endurance have become a key factor in being a winning player.
Just have a look at matches being played at the Grand Slam level – they are now stretching regularly into the 4 hours mark, and playing at that level for that length of time requires a significant amount of energy.
The Ultimate goal was reached
For Murray, there were clear goals he wanted to reach. When the Big Three were dominating tennis in the 2000s, Murray was a distant 4th. He didn’t slow down – on the contrary, he went back to the gym, and figured out a way to get his fitness to a level to compete with the likes of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. The carrot being dangled in front of him was becoming a national hero in the UK.
HE achieved this two times over, first by winning the Olympic Gold Medal in Men’s Tennis at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. This was followed by a triumph at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships. The combination of these two wins secured Murray’s legacy in the sport and in his country. He would go on to take the Number 1 ranking for a period of time and made the Big Three a Big Four.
The effort clearly took its toll.
While the accomplishments made by Murray in the 2012 and 2013 campaigns are nothing to sneeze at, his body could not possibly take that kind of pounding for a long time. In fact, all of the top four players in the world have sustained significant injuries. The difference between Murray and the rest is how much he has to rely on his off-court training.
The other three all have a level of natural talent that outshines that of Murray, so even when they don’t feel 100% physically, they are able to draw on that talent to win matches. It is clear having watched Murray in the last couple of years that he can’t compete on skill alone, and his results have shown this. In 2018, he was barely making it through matches against lower ranked opponents, not coming at all close to his form of the years previous.
There is a glimmer of hope
Murray has been showing signs of improving, having a few decent matches throughout the summer and into the fall. However, he decided it was time to shut down his season after an early round loss in September. This means we won’t likely see Murray playing before the warmup tournaments in advance of the Australian Open. The sportsbooks clearly believe that a healthy Murray is still a viable threat – a quick scan shows most books have him listed with the fourth best odds of being the champion.
Now, there are many factors that could affect a bet on Murray. The first is his ranking – he is currently ranked 262 in the world. The odds are that he will receive a wildcard entry to play the event if he is able to compete. However, the tournament does not use arbitrary seeding like Wimbledon so he will come in as an unseeded player. This means he could end up facing one of the top-ranked players early in the event, which will make his road even more difficult.
The other factor that will play into Murray’s potential result in Australia would be the weather. IT is notoriously hot during the event, and without the benefit of lots of match play, it is expected that Murray’s physical conditioning will also be challenged. While the sportsbooks see it differently, we think there is a good chance we won’t see Andy Murray ever reaching the heights he once did.