The sport of tennis feels like it is about to undergo a serious changing of the guard in the next few years. The likes of Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Felix Auger are paving the way for the next generation of stars within the men’s game that look set to dominate the Grand Slams in the coming months. Alcaraz recently won the Madrid Open in his native Spain aged 19, Tsitsipas and Zverev are quickly becoming stalwarts in the latter stages of most tournaments and Auger, despite not turning 22 until August, is currently ranked ninth in the world.
While these up and comers are paving the way for a new golden era in tennis, the old guard won’t want to pass the torch on without a fight. Novak Djokovic, as controversial as his vaccine status is, has dominated the majority of recent Grand Slams, and when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal aren’t being let down by their ageing bodies, they are still two of the deadliest players around, with plenty of accolades and experience, that will always help them to go the distance if their body allows.
But as we see Nadal gear up for the French Open, a tournament that looks increasingly hard to call a winner on when sports betting, Andy Murray, just 11 months younger than ‘The King of Clay’ looks more and more likely to hang up the racket. The Scot, who recently celebrated his 35th birthday, has looked a pale imitation of the player we once saw compete with tennis’s big three. He proved a real thorn in the side of all of them at one point or another, capturing three Grand Slams and winning Gold at two Olympic Games for Great Britain.
However, time mercilessly passes by, Murray looks even less likely to win any big tournaments again. Multiple hip surgeries look to have taken their toll and his withdrawal from Roland Garros epitomising his last few years on the court — burdened by inconsistency and mediocrity, with sporadic flashes of brilliance. Having taken a wildcard at the Madrid Open, he looked to roll back the years against the impressive Dominic Thiem with a surprise win in the round of 64, then beat Canadian Denis Shapovalov to set up a tie with Djokovic.
It appeared to be another false dawn though, and Murray pulled out due to food poising. For someone that was set to skip the entire clay season, Murray had done well to continue as long as he did, but illness ruled him out of the third round and after withdrawing, tennis fans were denied a 37th encounter between the duo, although the Serbian still praised the Scot for his effort.
“To have him still compete is great,” the 20-time Grand Slam winner said. “To have him even play at a high level as the time goes by is impressive, considering the surgery and what he has been through in the past few years. His resilience and fighting spirit is really inspiring.”
The next Grand Slam for Murray realistically looks like Wimbledon, where he’ll be in a race against time to keep his body up to scratch. He’ll certainly be an outsider despite being closer to home soil, with the Scot currently ranked 67th in the world, a far cry from the time he spent at the top back in his peak years around 2016. It could serve as ‘one last dance’ on the court from one of Britain’s best ever players.