Misc Tennis

The unlucky era of Andy Murray

The unlucky era of Andy Murray

If you accept the premise that Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are, in some order, the three best men’s players of all-time — and, hey, you might not, it’s a free country, and at the very least, Rod Laver has a great top-three case — that No. 4 spot has an endless number of candidates.

There’s Laver, of course. He won all four Grand Slam events in both 1962 and 1969 and finished with 11 Slam titles. That’s despite sacrificing five years of his prime to professional tennis, in the day when you could select either money or Slams but not both. There’s Big Bill Tilden, one of the sport’s first genuine superstars. He won seven US Opens, three Wimbledon titles and three pro majors before World War II and might have racked up a huge Slam total with the same opportunities today’s pros have. There’s Bjorn Borg, who burned out early but forced the entire men’s tennis tour to raise its game to combat his six French Open titles in eight years and five straight Wimbledons. Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall, Ivan Lendl, Roy Emerson, Pancho Gonzalez … plenty of men have a case to make.

Allow me to make the case that Andy Murray is the fourth-best men’s tennis player of all time. Murray, who is combatting a body that refuses to give him peace, says he will retire if he’s fit to play at Wimbledon and the Paris Olympics. The 37-year-old is recovering from spinal surgery on June 22. He was No. 1 in the world in 2017 when a severe hip injury knocked him out for the next year. He hasn’t ranked higher than 37th in the seven years since — though reaching that rank with a resurfaced hip was an impressive accomplishment. But despite that, and despite just three Slam titles to his name, Murray might have genuinely been both No. 4 of his era and No. 4 of all eras. And to make his case, all I have to do is make three other players disappear.

Let’s pretend for a moment that, in some alternate universe, another sport — soccer, perhaps, or golf or basketball — attracts the attention of a boy in Basel named Roger, a boy in Mallorca named Rafa and a boy in Belgrade named Novak. They all still grow up to become famed athletes, but they do it in a sport that doesn’t involve a ball and a racquet.

Over the past 21 years, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic combined to win 66 Slam titles. They’ve together won more Slams than everyone else…

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