For Andy Murray the tennis supergroup has become Crosby, Stills and Nash ... without Young
The Fantastic Four have become the Three Kings. The Fab Four have turned into the Three Musketeers. The Gang of Four have reverted to the Three Amigos.
Where once it was Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, now the band are down to a trio - Crosby, Stills and Nash without Young.
It’s not hard and fast. Murray can regain his place at tennis’ top table - the toppermost one there has ever been in the sport - any time he likes and he would be welcomed back by his rivals who always talk so warmly of his gifts on the court and so encouragingly of his comeback bid.
But for the time being the Scot must continue on that long road, hoping that he and his metal hip can become better acquainted. And he can only look on as the guys he’d regularly meet, and occasionally beat, at the business end of the big tournaments are discussed in hushed tones, the subject of debate being: who is the GOAT?
Greatest of all time? It has to be Rog, the supreme stylist, swish-swish-swish, tennis as ballet, the man who hardly breaks sweat and could probably still win in the all-white monogrammed suit he wears for the walk from locker-room to court.
No, it has to be Rafa, the Spanish bull, tennis as a biff-bang comic-book blockbuster, with the physique of an actual Marvel superhero, the one seemingly constructed from red clay, the surface where he is unbeatable.
Or what about Novak, tennis as a weird psychodrama, and when he was disqualified from the US Open for thrashing a ball at a line judge the headlines ran: “It had to be Djokovic.” Maybe you admire him rather than love him, but he returns like nobody else. He’s younger than the other two and could yet slip-slide right past them in the manner of his retrievals.
On Sunday at Roland Garros, Nadal joined Federer on 20 majors. Djokovic is behind them by three, the number Murray has managed to wrest from the trio, gaining black-card membership of their club for a while.
Almost exactly a year ago, Murray won the European Open in Antwerp, his first ATP Tour success since 2017. He’s been focused on trying to regain momentum in Cologne, where he was playing Fernando Verdasco in the Bett1 HULKS Indoors, but of course in the wake of Nadal’s 13th Parisian triumph his views were sought on the epic struggle and who he thought might eventually emerge on top.
With Federer turning 40 next year, Murray declared it would be between the Spaniard and the Serb but couldn’t choose. Nadal’s domination of Paris, though, was “an amazing achievement” which probably won’t be repeated. “I think it’s one of the best records in sport, maybe the best.”
Then Murray produced a neat stat. Nadal was now just one short of winning the same number of majors at one tournament as Pete Sampras managed in his entire Slam career.
That’s the kind of insight, even nerdiness, which could take Murray into commentary-work when he finally quits playing, but he’s not ready yet. He still wants to achieve Full Metal Hip and be in perfect harmony with his cobalt-chromium joint.
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