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Andy Murray would rank Tokyo 2020 medal as ‘best achievement’ of career

The Guardian - Thu Jul 22 10:24

As Andy Murray prepares to compete in the fourth Olympic games of his life, he says that winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics would rank as one of the best achievements of his career given his torrid struggles with injuries. He believes that he is still capable of doing so.

Although the men’s draw contains only 22 top 50 players and also 22 players outside of the top 100 after a flurry of withdrawals, luck has not been on the 2012 and 2016 champion’s side and he faces an extremely tough pair of first-round matches against top seeds.

Murray will play against in-form ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the singles draw while the men’s doubles draw, where his chances of a deep run were perhaps likelier alongside Joe Salisbury they were handed one of the toughest draws against second seeds Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who have won five grand slam titles together.

“That’s the goal, to try and win another medal,” said Murray, who also has a silver won with Laura Robson in doubles in 2012. “I’m aware that it’s not gonna be easy. I’m also in a slightly different position to what I was four, five years ago when I would’ve been expected to get one. Maybe not the case this time around.”

“But for me, it would probably be my best achievement if I could do that after everything that’s gone on the last few years and stuff. I’m motivated for that reason alone and I still believe that I can do that. I still believe that it’s possible.”

Murray was in a far more positive frame of mind than immediately after his straight set Wimbledon third-round loss to Denis Shapovalov of Canada, when he finished his press conference by questioning how long he could continue to compete as injuries disrupted his schedule.

With some distance from the event, Murray now says that he is the healthiest he has been “for the longest period in the last year”. He has been able to practise “way more” since Wimbledon than his sparse training schedule leading into the event. He feels that he is improving.

As he discussed Wimbledon, Murray recounted a discussion with his daughter that undoubtedly helped his resolve, Murray laughed: “When I got home, the day after my match, my daughter said to me: ‘Daddy, you’re home because you lost another tennis match?’ I said: ‘Yeah, I did. But what do you do when you lose at something?’ And she said: ‘You try and try again?’ I was like: ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do.’ I want to keep playing because I enjoy it. I still think I can play at a good level.”

Andy Murray shakes hands with Novak Djokovic after a practice match in Tokyo.
Andy Murray shakes hands with Novak Djokovic after a practice match in Tokyo. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic’s chase for a golden slam continues. The world No 1 faces Hugo Dellien in the first round, with seventh seed Andrey Rublev looming in his quarter. Alexander Zverev, seeded fourth, is the highest ranked rival in his half while Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas potentially loom in the final. Liam Broady, a late entrant following the withdrawals, will face Francisco Cerundolo in the first round.

Naomi Osaka’s return to competition headlines the women’s competition, and she has a fair draw in the opening round as she faces Zheng Saisai of China. Osaka could potentially battle her good friend and fellow grand slam champion Iga Swiatek in the quarter-final.

Higher up in the women’s draw, which certainly has a stronger field than the men’s event, Ashleigh Barty opens against the tireless Sara Sorribes Tormo, which could prove a difficult encounter in conditions that are said to be quite slow. Barbora Krejcikova, the French Open champion, could await in the quarter-final. Team GB’s Heather Watson will start against Anna-Lenn Friedsam of Germany.

Play will begin on Saturday and Murray will be there from the beginning, offering the full scope of his effort even if he receives little in return: “I know that this could be the last [Olympics] for me. So I want to go out there and leave everything out on the court, fight for every single point. Because ultimately that’s all you can do.”