Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Don't give Andy Murray a knighthood - at the very least, he deserves an earldom

The Earl of Dunblane
The two years following his first Wimbledon win in 2013 were a bit rough for Britain's greatest ever tennis player. Major back surgery, followed by an inevitably lengthy dip in form; being sacked as a client by his coach Ivan Lendl; the bizarre appointment of Amelie Mauresmo as Lendl's replacement; Murray's idiotic decision to tweet a pro-Scottish independence message on the eve of the referendum (later retracted); and, apart from reaching the 2015 Australian Open final and his first two tournament wins on clay a few months later, a distinctly stuttering return to form... until last November, when everything changed. Just consider what he's achieved in the nine months since then:

Davis Cup: Winner
Australian Open: Runner-up
Italian Open: Winner
French Open: Runner-up
Queen's Club: Winner
Wimbledon: Winner
Olympics: Winner
After Murray won the Davis Cup for Great Britain last year, I wrote: "I ask nothing more of him - the Olympics, Wimbledon and the Davis Cup: that'll do...I have no hunger for more Murray achievements - he's done all anybody could have asked of him." I suspect that's why his three latest achievements - winning the Davis Cup, and Wimbledon and the Olympic Gold Medal, both for a second time - have afforded this lifelong tennis fan more pleasure, more sheer unalloyed delight, than any other sporting achievements by any other sportsman in my lifetime. Murray winning the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013 were a massive relief: these last three career-defining victories were simply joyful. (I'm not sure why - and who cares?)

Presumably both Mo Farah and Andy Murray will be awarded knighthoods  in the near future. The only reason for withholding the honour from either of them would be fear of possible revelations about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. I don't know enough about long-distance running to have any opinion as to the likelihood of Mo Farah being - or having been - a doper, but, given his vehement rejection of rumours last year and the fact that he isn't beating his rivals by massive margins and that he ended Saturday's 10,000 metres in a state of obvious exhaustion, it seems highly unlikely - no matter who he has rubbed shoulders with in the past. And if Andy Murray has ever used PEDs, I'm a 5ft 2in Chinese bar-girl called Wang: the painful slowness of Murray's crawl back to form following his return to the circuit in the wake of major surgery is all the proof anyone should need that he's not a cheat (when players take months off, citing injury or long-term physical problems as the reason, and then win every tournament they enter when they return - well, that's fishy).

In Murray's case - simply because tennis happens to be the sport that I follow - I'm not sure a knighthood is sufficient to express the nation's gratitude for his wonderfulness as a player, and for representing his nation so brilliantly in the Davis Cup and at the Olympics. "The Earl of Dunblane" has a nice ring to it.

Just a few thoughts on Murray's likeable opponent - the sad-eyed Argentinian man-mountain Juan Martin del Porto, who defeated Djokovic and Nadal on his way to the final, and who played out of his skull last night. The poor bugger's career has been so badly affected by injuries in recent years (left wrist, mainly) that it's easy to forget that he's a grand slam winner, having beaten Federer in the US Open final way back in 2009. I'm not usually that keen on behemoth tennis players with massive forehands and ball-tearing serves: they're often poor returners of the serve, with inconsistent ground-strokes, and a tendency to fold against nimbler, more naturally talented opponents. Besides, they often have rather dull on-court personalities. But del Potro is a true exception on all counts, and I genuinely hope he wins at least one more major (as long as it isn't against Murray).

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