As if career-threatening back surgery were not enough, he finds himself living in a tennis era featuring a trio of the game’s most brilliant exponents. Too many times he has been denied.
In the deciding showdown at Wimbledon 2016, he faced an unfamiliar opponent across the net in the form of Milos Raonic in his Grand Slam final debut. And with Raonic came a new threat to Murray’s hopes – that on the one occasion in 11 Slam finals where his opponent was neither Roger Federer nor Novak Djokovic, he would still be thwarted. That at this, of all times, victory might simply have been someone else’s story.
But Murray would not permit it. Instead he made himself master of his own destiny, patiently neutralising the thunderous Raonic ace machine and dismantling the Canadian’s attack to win 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(2).
When these two players last met just 21 days ago in the final at Queen’s, for a set-and-a-half Raonic put together tennis of a new serenity, returning more effectively and showing improved ability at the net. It wasn’t hard to devise a reason for the sudden depth in his tennis, as John McEnroe had joined his coaching team that week.
Throughout his progress at Wimbledon 2016, Raonic built on those new dimensions. But maybe those two five-setters in the fourth round and semi-finals, against David Goffin and Roger Federer respectively, drained him too much; after all, he has never previously known the demands of producing his best tennis for seven Slam matches in a row.
Murray was simply never headed. In the early skirmishes, he was the one carving out the chances; and soon he hustled Raonic into misjudgment, when the No.6 seed came to the net once too often and dumped the ball in the net to give the break at 3-4.
Throughout these Championships Raonic had averaged seven aces in every set, but in this opening set he was permitted just one, and it was not because he was playing poorly. Murray’s invention was defusing the threat. Utterly in control, he patted the ball away to safety on set point.
His focus did not waver, which was just as well, as throughout the second it became clear that Raonic was by no means done. But the Canadian was winning only half the points he attempted on serve and volley, and he had to fend off more Murray break points to stay in it. One point summed up Raonic’s day – he delivered a 147mph missile into the Scot’s body, of the kind which worked so well his semi against Federer; but Murray handled it, and produced a fabulous backhand pass so that Raonic still lost the point. They got as far as the breaker, whereupon mistakes by the debutant put Murray in control, and he did not let the advantage slip.
With Ivan Lendl back in his corner, Murray’s calm was rarely ruffled, and it was noticeable that at the changeovers he was reading prompt notes in his kitbag. He showed mild irritation with the overlong bathroom break which Raonic took at the end of the second set by commencing the third set with a rare double fault. Loose play gave Raonic two chances to break for 3-2, but Murray would have none of it. Into the breaker, and the Scot produced his 15th backhand pass for a mini-break at the very first opportunity. After that, it was never in doubt.
Murray took his second Wimbledon title, and his third Grand Slam crown, by forcing one more error from his vanquished opponent. And then he emitted a great roar at the skies.
Watching him in that perfect moment was to recall the words of Yuri Vlasov, the 1960 Olympic super-heavyweight weightlifting champion. “At the peak of tremendous and victorious effort, while the blood is pounding in your head, all suddenly comes quiet within you,” wrote the Russian.
“Everything seems clearer and whiter than ever before, as if great spotlights had been turned on. At that moment, you have the conviction that you contain all the power in the world, that you are capable of everything, that you have wings. There is no more precise moment in life than this, the white moment, and you will work hard for years just to taste it again.”
Andy Murray’s work-rate is almost his most formidable weapon. And at Wimbledon 2016, he has at last tasted the white moment of victory again.