MIKE DICKSON: Andy Murray is playing to a top-50 standard and the fire still clearly burns within

As his career heads into extra time Andy Murray continues to defy convention, and not just by showing it is possible to play singles tennis with a metal hip.

Take, for example, the way he reacted to defeat against Alex Zverev at Indian Wells. For those of us who have chronicled him over the years this was something new.

We have never seen him hurl his racket down after losing match point, nor him walk off court barking frustration into the palm of his hand as he left. Then there was the simple four-letter expletive he posted on his social media a couple of hours later.


Andy Murray continues to defy convention and the fire still burns within, leading to frustration


The fire still burns within, no doubt about that, and it is causing him extreme frustration that beating the top players is proving beyond him.

All that painstaking work, and yet next week his ranking will be down to around 170, due to him losing points from winning in Antwerp two years ago. 

Murray insists that repeatedly asking events for wildcard entries does not bother him as it is an acceptable payback for all those years of injury, but at some level it must pain a proud competitor.

Murray is struggling to beat top players, but he is still flying in the face of science with his hip

With so many star names in tennis currently indisposed, tournament directors are happy to have him, but there may come a point when the offers are not so bountiful.

The good news is that Murray is still flying in the face of science by being able to play with a large steel cap inserted within a key area of the body. So well is he coping that he is playing to a standard of someone within the world’s top fifty, whatever the rankings say.

The problem is that he keeps coming up against very good players, ones he used to frequently beat, and is still unable to get beyond them.

He has been able to play ten tournaments this season, and in eight he has been defeated by players ranked 13 or better, Zverev being the latest. He was not far off taking the new Olympic champion and world number four into a third set. 

In his defeat against Alex Zverev at Indian Wells, Murray was not far off taking him to a third set

Given how unnerved the German looked at playing him – witness his embarrassing sequence of overhead misses – Murray might well have won a decider.

Yet what separates the very best players from the supporting cast tends to be ability to deliver on the big points, at the most crucial moments.

Murray is falling short here, which explains why this year he has beaten eight top hundred players but not been able to get past anyone ranked higher than 26. Another telling statistic is that he has lost his last five tiebreaks.

It is only natural that the more than four years of physical problems will have eroded his self-belief. Rather like his numerical ranking, the only way to recover that will be to start beating the best players, and he has not overcome anyone in the top five since the end of 2016.

But Murray is falling short in tiebreaks and on the big points, and time is running out for him

Adding to his angst is that he knows time is running out to get back to the top of the game. Even with the best of health he is 34 years old, and not equipped with the kind of elastic physique possessed by Novak Djokovic, or the balletic ease of movement associated with Roger Federer.

It could be argued that Murray would better serve himself by walking away gracefully from the game, leaving behind the legacy of being Britain’s greatest post-war player. It is certainly painful to watch him still carping at his support box as middle age approaches, a habit which seems impossible to kick.

He has all the money he will ever need and is blessed by having a large family. Yet in an individual sport it is nobody’s business but it his own how long he wants to go on for, and as the old truism goes you are retired for a long time.

It is not like he is being dropped, ignominiously, from a team.   

Despite being blessed with money and a large family, Murray will not go gently into the night

Britain’s Davis Cup Captain Leon Smith greeted the news that he would not be around for next month’s finals week (Murray says he needs a break to prepare for Australia) by saying ‘It would have been good to have him available for selection as clearly he is playing very high level tennis again and always brings so much to the team.’

Murray suggested after Wimbledon that he was questioning how long he might go on for. It now looks certain he will – barring physical setbacks – be back again at SW19 next summer.

He does not look far away from having a big tournament, that is the truth of the matter. While there is still that possibility do not expect him to go gently into the night.