Andy Murray has won Wimbledon twice. He has won the U.S. Open. He has won two Olympic gold medals. He has won the Davis Cup. He has played in Roland Garros and Australian Open finals. He has won 14 Masters 1000 championships.
Murray — before his “possible-maybe-we-don’t-know” semi-farewell in Australia earlier this year, when people like me had to write articles on his career JUST IN CASE it was over (but maybe not) — had already attained a very large place in the history of tennis.
If that match against Roberto Bautista-Agut in Melbourne had been the true end of his singles career, Murray would have owned a storybook tennis journey which will be talked about for a very long time.
Even if Murray had reached the end of the road earlier in 2019 — even if that was his last gasp — Muzz already would have owned sports immortality in both the sport of tennis and Great Britain.
British tennis will always include and revere Fred Perry. Andy Murray forged the achievements which enabled various British tennis championship droughts to end after periods of more than 75 years, dating back to Perry himself.
Yes, Andy Murray was already a true immortal in all the ways that mattered… and yet, now, in this second existence, this new life with a repaired body, Andrew Barron Murray can say:
“I will always have Antwerp.”
It doesn’t roll off the tongue or create an instant electrical spark… but it’s true.
Forget, for a moment, Centre Court Wimbledon, or the U.S. Open, or the Olympics, or the Masters titles. On Sunday, Andy Murray won the most special ATP 250 tournament of his career.
It was special enough to cry about, special enough to warrant tears.
Andy Murray winning any ATP Tour championship after his years of injury-based uncertainty and his uphill battle with pain is an immense triumph.
We can sit here and discuss how much confidence this gives — and could continue to extend — to Murray as he prepares for 2020. Yes, that is obviously an important detail of this title in Belgium, won over Stan Wawrinka in a close and exciting three-set final.
Yet, this win over Wawrinka — which will be dissected in a million different ways in relationship to Murray’s tennis future — should be primarily celebrated for what it means in the present moment.
Yes, in late December, when tennis blogs and commentators preview the 2020 season, Murray d. Wawrinka in Antwerp will be a focal point for various articles and TV segments on what it might mean for Muzz in the coming year, especially for any battle he might have against the Big 3.
Yet, that particular conversation can wait, as can Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer.
For now, simply take the time to appreciate — and marvel at — what Murray has done.
The oceans of suffering. The rivers of doubt. The lakes of despair in the face of realizing that for a period of time, Murray could not play the sport he so evidently loves.
There was that one profoundly memorable moment in Washington, D.C., in August of 2018, when Murray beat Marius Copil after 3 a.m. The intense emotions poured out of Murray’s body and mind back then, but the absurdity of a match starting so late and compromising the rest of the tournament for Murray put a black cloud over that nevertheless inspiring event.
Murray’s passion for tennis was evident then, as it was on Sunday in Antwerp against Wawrinka… but it came with a cost, and continued questions about his future.
This win over Stan was a truer, fuller, more complete triumph in every sense. There were no black clouds or unwelcome absurdities on this specific journey over the past week. This was true resurrection.
We in the global tennis community will all speculate on what this means for Andy Murray, but in the present tense, I prefer to view this moment, first and foremost, as a triumph over the past two years of misery and doubt.
Murray could certainly build on this achievement. If he does, we will celebrate future feats, to be sure, and note the improvement of an already-legendary career.
Yet, if Murray doesn’t return to a Big Four-level height, if he doesn’t reestablish himself at the plane of tennis existence he once owned, this win over Wawrinka, this tournament championship, will still endure as a powerfully symbolic of everything tennis observers have come to appreciate about Andrew Barron Murray.
He — we — will always have Antwerp.
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