Sir Andy Murray has the mettle to win his toughest battle
Sir Andy Murray will be knighted today as he continues his battle to recover from career-saving hip surgery, but such a gloriously dedicated champion has earned his royal seal of approval, writes Desmond Kane.
A metal hip, but an iron will. If any professional sportsperson can overcome the grotesque ill fortune of a career-threatening injury, it is Andy Murray. At the age of 31, the life and times of Murray the tennis champion has been extraordinarily glorious, a miracle on Murray Mound if you like.
It has been a uniquely rich experience, perhaps more so for the traditional British lover of a sporting underdog coming good, but the impossible was only made possible after averting genuine tragedy.
Murray's home town of Dunblane near Stirling in Scotland is a thousands miles away, both figuratively and literally, from the teeming thoroughfares of elite tennis that has made him a global success story. Murray's gilded career over the past 14 years has helped to pour heartwarming, soothing sunshine on Dunblane after the spectre of evil disfigured the scenic little settlement.
There but for the grace of God, go I. It has been well publicised, but Andy Murray attended Dunblane Primary School at the time of the shootings. He survived by taking cover under a school desk. He was only eight. But for a twist of fate, the self-effacing Scot may not have been around to fulfil his potential as a world-class winner. Perhaps the greatest British champion of them all.
"I could have been one of those children."
Set against such horrors, a second hip surgery in only a year pales into insignificance.
Murray's quite splendid work ethic, his character and his ability to deliver his very best against the very best, perhaps the three finest tennis players of all time in Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, will serve him well in the most difficult challenge of his career.
The motto of the Murray story is one of raw courage, perseverance and a refusal to listen to the doubters. One of the great fascinations of life is that you never know what is around the corner. If you hang in there, you might just make it wherever you find yourself stationed. Even when you are left stranded on a hospital bed on an idle Tuesday recovering from an operation on a crumbling hip in your early 30s.
When Murray was wallowing in tears after his defeat to Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final, it is obvious that he was not fraternising with self-pity. He shelved any notions of being the eternal bridesmaid by clasping Olympic gold with victory over Federer just a fortnight later. His first Grand Slam came courtesy of rousing triumph in five sets over Djokovic at the US Open two months later to make good on his early promise.
The big one, indeed the only one in the eyes of the majority of the British public, was delivered in July 2013 when he swatted aside Djokovic in straight sets on a searing Sunday afternoon. After becoming the first British man since Fred Perry to win Wimbledon in 1936, he promptly doubled his lot by careering to another success at the Grand Slam on grass in 2016.
One does not need to be a tennis champion to extract the bigger point from the Murray story.
The Dunblane shooting incident illustrated the fragility of life. Like the moments in life that have defined Murray, we all live on a knife edge. Who knows what lives the innocents murdered in Dunblane would have gone onto lead. The real pain of those horrors is that their parents will never know.
In such respect, like Murray, if we are all standing fit, healthy and mentally well placed, many of us live charmed lives even without millions of the green stuff. If he can never play tennis again, at least he is no longer in pain. What a ride he has given the British public over the past decade. He has earned his retirement knowing he maxed out on his burgeoning potential.
If he never plays tennis again, Murray can retire knowing his career was an unqualified success. He delivered on his promise, and more. He is a three-time Grand Slam champion, an Olympic champion and has been knighted as a proud son of Dunblane. He has never forgotten his roots, and has been an exceptional ambassador for town and country.
If he makes it to one final Wimbledon in June, it will be a chance to celebrate one of the game's greatest players, a real character and a true original of the species. The glumness should be temporary after producing a body of unbelievable fiction more delightful than Roald Dahl.
Murray has more mettle in him than a metal hip. Without being overly dewy-eyed or far-fetched, one suspects he has not yet played his final match.