Andy Murray returns to Melbourne for first time since emotional retirement speech three years ago


Few men get to read their own obituaries. Andy Murray did.

His were written here in Melbourne three years ago, when it was believed he had played his last game of professional tennis. He was in tears even coming into the tournament, relaying in painful detail the agony his life had become.

Then he battled through four gruelling sets, across five hours, against No 22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. At the end, Murray stood in the heart of Margaret Court Arena as his hosts played a series of video tributes from contemporaries, based on the assumption it was over. He would have got to see some of the newspaper and social media eulogies, too.

A tearful Andy Murray speaks ahead of the 2019 Australian Open where he unofficially retired

Darren Cahill, the coach who helped Andre Agassi become the oldest player to reach No 1, encapsulated Murray’s uniqueness perfectly. 

‘When you search for examples of ’emptied the bucket to be as good as they could be’, there should be a picture of Andy Murray sitting there,’ he explained. ‘Remarkable discipline for training, competition, sacrifice and perfection. A little crazy but a legend of a bloke.’

Anyway, three years on, hello again. Nothing that was written about Murray that day was untrue, apart from the idea that a madman like him would take no for an answer, even from his body. So here we are, back in Melbourne, fresh from an appearance in the final of the Sydney International, his first since 2019.

Murray cried at the end of last week’s run, too, but with delight this time, a joyous appreciation of a remarkable revival in the twilight of his career. 

Somehow, after ground-breaking hip surgery, he has remained competitive and a threat to young men ranked far higher, like Tuesday’s opponent Nikoloz Basilashvili. Murray defeated the Georgian in round two in Sydney, now they are paired again.

It might not go his way a second time. Basilashvili is, after all, seeded 21. Yet, for Murray, it is already a victory being back here.

Murray played five matches in the Sydney International, losing to Aslan Karatsev in the final

Murray played five matches in the Sydney International, losing to Aslan Karatsev in the final

‘I remember the match against Roberto in 2019,’ he said. ‘I remember how I was feeling before going in, just unbelievably anxious. Those emotions had been building up for quite a long time.

‘I’d had conversations with my team in the off-season and my family. I told them, ‘I’m going to stop after the Australian Open. I am just hating this, my body’s killing me and I can’t compete properly’. But from that night, I just remember this incredible atmosphere. I’m still surprised I was able to perform like I did with the lack of practice and preparation and how bad my body felt.

‘If that had been my last match, it would have been fine, it would have been a good way to finish. Now, it’s just nice waking up every morning and not being constantly in pain. But the end could be any time now so I’m just trying to make the most of every opportunity.

‘In 2019, even if I did win that match I wouldn’t have been able to play the next round. But here, I can go in and physically I’m in a pretty good place. Making the final last week was really good for me.’

Some may put Murray’s unofficial retirement down to a falsely perceived dour demeanour. He even got told to smile more last week by the ever-charming Nigel Farage, who brings happiness to millions each time he tries, and fails, to get elected to parliament.

The Scot is smiling again after battling through injuries to become competitive on court

The Scot is smiling again after battling through injuries to become competitive on court

Yet there was little doubting Murray’s sincerity at the time. He had been warned that even tennis with his young family might be too much in the coming years.

‘I was extremely uncertain about what was going to happen and whether I was going to be able to play again,’ Murray recalled. ‘I wasn’t enjoying it, I just wanted to stop. But the support I got from the players, the public, it helped me a lot. I was struggling mentally and physically and there was just so much positivity. It cheered me up. It felt nice.’

One of those messages came from Novak Djokovic, last seen being escorted out of the country under police guard. It is an image that affords Murray no pleasure at all.

‘I didn’t like seeing Novak in detention, staying in those conditions,’ he said. ‘I know he’s not the only one doing it but he’s someone I respect a lot and have known since we were children. I hope he’s OK and this doesn’t come up at other tournaments.

‘Him, his team, the tours and the Slams need to get something in place ahead of time in the future.’

Not that Murray is one to advise on exits, but a police van is certainly no way to go out.

Novak Djokovic has been the centre of attention in the lead up to the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic has been the centre of attention in the lead up to the Australian Open 



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