Andy Murray
Britain’s Andy Murray celebrates after winning his semifinal against Czech Republic’s Jiri Lehecka at the Qatar Open in Doha on February 24, 2023. He lost the final to Daniil Medvedev, and withdrew from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship after a recurrence of hip injury. Image Credit: Reuters

Andy Murray won’t show up in Dubai. That’s hugely disappointing as he was one of the headline acts at the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. I have been looking forward to his matches, especially after his superb run at the Qatar Open last week.

Alas, that was not to be. Murray’s hip injury flared again. For a man with artificial hips, the Briton played incredibly well, winning gruelling three-setters before losing the final in Doha. One of them, the semifinal, was the most dramatic as he saved five match points against Czech Jiri Lehecka to enter his first ATP final since Stuttgart in June.

His mother was worried about how his hips would hold up to the rigours of matches that went the distance. “A straight sets win once in a while would be nice,” Judy Murray tweeted.

Reading about all that made me more keen to see Murray in Dubai. But the thrillers at Qatar Open seem to have taken a toll on Murray’s body. I hope that he recovers soon and returns to the courts. The Glasgow-born may be 35, but he’s still a treat to watch. His tennis that is.

I stressed about tennis because he cuts a forlorn figure on the court. He rarely smiles and has a hang-dog expression. Much the American Pete Sampras. In between points, Murray constantly mutters to himself while picking at the racquet strings. When the games don’t go his way, it gets worse. He starts cursing to himself, sometimes loudly. More like a troubled man.

The joys of watching Murray

The persona changes when he’s on a song. Murray’s a man transformed when winners flow from his racquet. I’ve sat admiring his shot-making. I’m a tennis enthusiast who has grown up watching John McEnroe work his magic. That’s why I adore Roger Federer. My enjoyment comes from the subtleties, not the crunching groundstrokes. Murray has given me some of the finest tennis to savour.

The Briton can trade shots from the baseline. He has variety in his backhand: although Murray prefers the double-fisted, he can hit the single-handed ones. His court craft and the all-court game are more appealing than the baseline huggers. He can serve and volley when required: I love that, which is why my favourites include Sampras, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg.

The last time I watched Murray in Dubai was in 2017; I still have the ticket. He was playing German Philipp Kohlschreiber, who won the early exchanges and the first set. Murray, as usual, was yelling to himself but hanging in there only to turn up the heat in the second set tie-breaker. He saved seven match points to deny Kohlschreiber: one of them was an incredible forehand drop that spun away from the charging German.

Shyam's Tennis ticket
My ticket for Day 4 of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in 2017 helped me watch Andy Murray’s epic match against German Philipp Kohlschreiber on March 2. Image Credit: Shyam A. Krishna/Gulf News

Murray won the 31-minute second-set tie-break 20/18 on his eighth set point and was unstoppable in the third set. It was a Murray special. A treat, really.

Watching Murray can be exciting and infuriating. Look at his Grand Slam record. Three majors hardly do justice to his talent. More revealing is that he has made the finals of 11 Grand Slam tournaments. That means he’s lost eight of them.

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Perhaps the most painful was the 2010 Australian Open final loss to Federer, who had denied him the US Open two years back. I felt Murray’s pain as tears streamed down his face. Federer was generous in his speech, saying that Murray was hamstrung by the weight of expectations of becoming the first Briton to win a Grand Slam in more than 70 years, and he would win many soon.

How Murray broke the British Grand Slam drought

That scene was replayed at Wimbledon two years later when Murray choked again with emotion after another gut-wrenching loss to Federer. In a matter of months, the same venue turned out to be the turning point in the Briton’s career. The 2012 London Olympics gold with a crushing win over Federer changed everything: he won the US Open the same year to become the first British man to win a major singles trophy since Fred Perry in 1936.

Two Wimbledon titles followed, and Murray was smiling. He may have only three majors, but they came against the best opposition in tennis history. A time when three of the greatest players — Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Federer — lorded over the tennis courts. Not bad for a player plagued by injuries.

He’s a fighter. Injuries and surgeries never stopped him. Not even steel hips. The Qatar Open is ample proof. I hope he comes to Dubai next year.