IT has been some time since we have reached the middle weekend of a Grand Slam and Andy Murray’s participation in the tournament is already a distant memory.

This year’s French Open, then, is a shock to the system for Brits, having seen Murray exit the tournament almost as soon as it began, with his defeat to Stan Wawrinka on day one.

A loss to a fellow three-time Grand Slam champion is not, in itself, a particular worry, but it was the manner of his disappointing defeat, with him never being in contention, which was the most concerning.

It was this lacklustre showing that prompted former major winner, now television commentator, Mats Wilander, to lay into the Scot in unprecedented fashion.

“I worry about Andy Murray,” Wilander, the seven-time Grand Slam champion said.

“I would love to hear him say why he is out there, giving us a false sense of hope that he is going to come back one day.

“I keep getting a little bit disappointed, is it his right to be out there doing that? Why?

“I think Andy Murray needs to stop thinking of himself and start thinking about who he was. Does he have a right to be out there taking wildcards from the young players?

“It’s tough to quit, for sure. Hopefully he’ll figure out why he’s doing it.”

It was an interesting, shall we say, take on the match, and on Murray himself from Wilander, and there are a few things his comments throw up.

First, to suggest Murray has less of a right to a wildcard than a young player is preposterous. The Scot is one of the greats of the last decade of men’s tennis, and a huge attraction for any tournament, and his three major titles and past world No.1 ranking ensure he has earned the right to be awarded a place in any draw.

Bear in mind wildcards are regularly awarded to far less worthy recipients, including players from the home country of a particular tournament, and the siblings of top players, such as Naomi Osaka’s sister and Novak Djokovic’s brother.

Of course each tournament is free to do what ever they want with their wildcards, but to suggest there are better recipients than Murray is just wrong.

Second, the question of why Murray is out there is an interesting one. I admit I have wondered that myself – what’s in it for the 33-year-old as he slogs it out on a freezing cold court in Paris with the odds stacked against him that he will ever reach the heights he once scaled?

Murray has millions in the bank, a wife and three young children at home, and a list of tennis achievements that no Briton is likely to match for a very, very long time.

Hip surgeries in 2018 and 2019 presented a massive challenge for the Dunblane man to overcome and many, including some medical professionals, believed they signaled the end of his playing career.

Certainly the easy option would have been to hang up his racket and waltz into the sunset, confident in the knowledge he is Scotland’s greatest-ever sportsperson.

I think most mere mortals would have taken that option. If I was in Murray’s position, I don’t think I’d want to put in the monumental effort required to get even close to competing with the best in today’s game.

So, as Wilander asked, why is Murray still out there? The obvious answer is he evidently feels he still has something to give, and he wants to see just what he has left in him. He may not win another Grand Slam title, but that does not mean he will view this comeback as a failure.

But perhaps the most striking thing about seeing Murray out on the court over the past few weeks, during which, don’t let it be forgotten, he defeated world No.7 Alex Zverev, is the drive which made him great in the first place, is still there, pushing him on to make a comeback this year.

Yes, with seemingly little to gain, returning to the circuit is irrational, and hard to fathom. But Murray still retains that innate motivation that saw him reach the top of the game when it seemed unthinkable a Scot could ever boast of being the best tennis player in the world.

And yes, it’s probably mad that Murray is still putting his body through hell, and pushing himself to the limit when he has nothing to prove to anybody, except perhaps himself.

But without that inexplicable need to get back out on the court, would he ever have achieved all he has over the past 10 years. Almost certainly not.


Amidst the countless Covid-inspired conversation starters at this year’s French Open, one potentially monumental event has drifted under the radar. If Rafa Nadal lifts the title at Roland Garros next weekend, he will equal Roger Federer’s all-time best tally of 20 Grand Slam titles.

Nadal may only be seeded second in Paris, behind world No.1 Novak Djokovic, but it takes a brave man to bet against the Spaniard, who has already racked up an amazing 12 French Open titles.

When Federer reached 20 majors in 2018, the feeling was the Swiss would never be bettered. For Nadal to potentially match it, and then possibly surpass it, is quite remarkable.

So, for all the talk of the freezing weather, the empty stands and the like, the real story to watch is Nadal’s ongoing bid to become the greatest player ever.