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OPEN ERA AT 50: THE RAINMAKER

Saqib Ali

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Matt Zemek

A rainmaker brings business success and money, but a rainmaker also ends droughts. When all is said and done, and regardless of whether he is able to win another major tournament in his (now) injury-plagued tennis existence, this will be Andy Murray’s central — and enormous — legacy as a tennis player.

It is true that Murray has also been a groundbreaker in terms of having a woman coach him. Amelie Mauresmo showed that a woman (and not a mother — a few moms, notably Gloria Connors with son Jimmy, became superb coaches) could coach a top ATP tennis player in the modern age and do it well. Mauresmo did not get to celebrate a major championship in the coaches’ box at a tournament, but she restored Murray’s career after back problems and put him in position to win Wimbledon in 2016 under Ivan Lendl’s watch. That two-year partnership was a substantial success, leading a player through a difficult time and allowing Murray to return to the sport’s pinnacle. That is one very big gift to tennis Murray will leave behind when he retires.

The rainmaker identity is still greater, though, because it carries so much historical weight… and because Murray relieved Great Britain of so much historical baggage.

In 2016, months after Murray’s third major title and second Wimbledon crown, the Chicago Cubs baseball team won its first World Series in 108 years… since 1908. A 108-year championship drought is hard to wrap the mind around. TEDDY ROOSEVELT — NOT FRANKLIN, TEDDY — was the President of the United States at the time.

In 2004, the Boston Red Sox snapped an 86-year World Series drought — they hadn’t won the championship of their sport since 1918, when World War I was just about to end.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James won the 2016 NBA title, they brought Cleveland its first major professional sports championship since 1964. “Only” 52 years separated Cleveland’s two most recent championships. John F. Kennedy was assassinated one year after that previous title.

Just imagine what it means when a community — be it a city or a specific fan base of a team, or a nation hoping for tennis glory — waits several decades to get just one sip from the cup… and that drink of nectar never comes.

10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, 50 years… that is more than half of a lifespan in developed countries. That represents three generations of human beings — grandparents, parents, and newborn children. 50 years is a long, long time. 86 years? 108 years? Those are — in relative terms — hard to fathom. They represent the distance between unrecognizable worlds.

The world as we knew it in 1993 (25 years ago) was very different, but it bore at least some resemblance to what we have now. Cable television was a part of our lives. The internet was just beginning to make its way into homes and communities. Phones were beginning to become smaller and more ubiquitous… and not confined to land lines.

The world of 1936, three years before the start of World War II? People with any memory of what it was like to live at that time have to be at least 85 years old, and people with well-developed memories of that time probably have to be at least 89 or 90 years old. It was — and is — a totally different universe.

As the 2012 U.S. Open arrived, Great Britain had not had a male singles player who had won a major title or a Wimbledon title since Fred Perry in 1936. The nation had not produced a Davis Cup championship since 1936.

Andrew Barron Murray visited these drought-parched lands and brought rain.

He outlasted Novak Djokovic in windy New York conditions to break the 76-year major title drought. He used that experience — and his taste of pressure in the 2012 Wimbledon final he lost to Roger Federer — to get it right the next year in 2013. The 77-year title drought for British men at Wimbledon had ended. In 2015, when James Ward upset John Isner in the first round against the United States, Great Britain and Murray received the piece of help they desperately needed. That was all Murray required to do the rest of the work (almost) entirely by himself.

Muzz slashed through three matches in the semifinals against Australia — winning both singles plus the doubles point with brother Jamie — to give Great Britain a 3-2 win. That was the closest tie the Brits faced after the first-round escape against the Americans. Murray shut down David Goffin in reverse singles to forge another 3-point tie in the 2015 Davis Cup Final, giving Great Britain a 3-1 win over Belgium and its first Davis Cup title since 1936.

76 years at the U.S. Open in 2012.

77 years at Wimbledon in 2013.

79 years at the Davis Cup Final in 2015.

In three short years, Andy Murray wiped away three oppressive sports droughts. He then won Wimbledon a second time in 2016 just to make sure no one could ever view him as a one-hit wonder at the tournament the British hold most dear to their hearts. Murray also won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2012 (at Wimbledon, notably) and in 2016 in Rio.

Murray doesn’t own Nadal’s absurd stack of French Opens or Federer’s ridiculous amount of Wimbledons or Djokovic’s pile of Australian Opens or Masters titles, but he has won across the spectrum — majors, Wimbledon, Davis Cup, the Olympics — and been the most consistent ATP player this side of the Big Three.

Andy Murray has no reason to regret the course of his career. He became the man who stopped not just one generationally oppressive and anxiety-creating dry spell in British men’s tennis. He stopped THREE of them and became a two-time Olympic champion.

No honest appraisal of Murray’s career can credibly say that this journey failed to reach several enormously consequential high points. That should give Murray more than enough satisfaction, the kind of inner peace no future events can take away.

Source: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

 

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