Andy Murray has capped the most tumultuous year of his career by becoming the European Open champion in Antwerp. To have arrived at this mountain peak from the lowest valley is something that followers of the Briton were hoping for, but no-one seriously expected. Where he has come from to get to this point has already been remarkable.
What next for Murray?
Literally speaking, he is due home to attend to his wife Kim who is imminently expecting their third child. Having been on the road for back-to-back tournaments no-one can say he doesn’t deserve a break and hopefully more happy news. Duty will almost certainly call for Murray soon afterwards though. The attempted rejuvenation of the Davis Cup is an event that the LTA would certainly like the Murrays present at, and one the former-world #1 would surely like to take a crack at. But what this article really wants to delve into is; what can Murray achieve in 2020 and beyond?
Can Murray add to his Grand Slam triumphs?
All professional tennis players aspire to the four major tournaments in the year, and deep down the thought of experiencing the triumphs of the US Open 2012, Wimbledon 2013 and 2016 and becoming World #1 will have been pushing him on through the punishing rehab this year.
The Australian Open comes around in January. Between the end of the season and the swing Down Under traditionally Murray undergoes an intensive training camp, usually based in Miami, Florida. Whether or not this remains his routine (three children have a habit of changing these things), there can be little doubt that Murray will be as physically ready as he can be for 2020.
Even though he has now won a title on tour so soon, it should be put in some context. The highest-ranked player Murray has defeated since he came back on tour has been Matteo Berrettini, then ranked #13. Yes, his victory over Stanislas Wawrinka (currently ranked #20) on Sunday was entertaining and electrifying, but no-one except maybe the most myopic Murray supporters would suggest that the Scot was back to his best, or even near to it.
For that reason, the Australian Open may come too soon for Murray to be a serious title contender. Particularly as he has never won in Melbourne, despite having played some fine tennis in reaching five finals Down Under. If he reaches the second week in a best-of-five tournament, for the first time since Wimbledon 2017, that would surely be a triumph in itself.
The Inspiration of the Past Could Propel Murray to Future Success
The clay-court swing was always a tough one for the Briton even in the peak years. It is difficult to imagine that Roland-Garros will be a tournament he is targeting, especially with you-know-who still haunting the locker room. Is it possible that he might take a leaf from the Federer playbook and skip the clay season altogether?
This leaves the Scot looking at the scenes of his greatest triumphs so far. Wimbledon should come at an ideal time for him. Murray’s match-mentality should be more acute than currently, the crowd support will, potentially, be greater than ever, and the inspiration he can draw upon is sharper at SW19 than at any other venue in the world.
Assuming Murray plays the hardcourt swing that he has traditionally harvested very successfully, Flushing Meadows could also be a venue that the former world #1 can win at. When he broke his Grand Slam duck there against Novak Djokovic in 2012, the US crowd seemed to take him to their hearts and undoubtedly they would love to see him winning there again.
Predicting the Future
Murray is 32. He has played only six ATP tournaments since his life-changing surgery. The fact that he has won one is a testament to his character, mental strength, emotional stability and, probably above all, fantastic tennis ability. Predicting what he can do from here is very difficult.
Assuming he continues to improve back towards the level he was achieving before this injury became significant, then he will be a contender for major titles again. He will be a member of the world’s top ten again. He will win ATP 250 and 500 tournaments. Beyond this, anything would be a bonus, and his legions of fans would be incredibly happy to see it.
The problem is that the same tennis players who dominated when Murray was at his peak are still dominant now. Then Daniil Medvedev has come along, potentially bringing the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and, new ATP Tour winner, Denis Shapovalov et.al. with him. When this is taken into account it is difficult to see a fourth Grand Slam triumph for Murray. But even the possibility of a return to Grand Slam glory for Murray is surely a welcome one.
Embed from Getty Images