There can be few career arcs in tennis that resonate quite as sweetly, and with quite as much tangible inspiration as Andy Murray’s from a talented young player struggling to put it all together to a supreme champion of the game, who reached his thrilling apotheosis in the shimmering atmosphere of Centre Court last Sunday. For Murray’s career has been studded with the kind of juddering emotional setbacks that would have caused a lesser man to crack, to discard all the hours of sweat and toil he had put in over the years through a feeling of helplessness. He had been in countless semi-finals against the other members of the top four club he has so convincingly made himself at home in, and four crushing finals – each closer than the last and therefore harder to deal with physically and emotionally. The agony that was increasing with each defeat nearly bubbled to the surface in losing to Roger Federer in the 2010 Australian Open final, before bursting out of him in a torrent of tears at his defeat in the Wimbledon final last year. Here was a man who had dedicated his whole life to the pursuit of his goals, from moving to a foreign country as a teenager to learn tennis and sacrificing the comforts of his home and friends to building up his body through agonising sessions of physical work to taking that fiendishly difficult hard look at himself and replacing his mental demons with a new calm, a new belief. Yet even after he had exhausted all those steps he was still coming up short and there was no guarantee after Wimbledon last year that he would ever find a way to cross that last barrier. It is therefore to his enormous credit that he never gave up the quest to improve himself, and continue finding the slimmest margins of self-betterment despite the dark hole that must have been growing wider and gnawing harder at him with each excruciating Grand Slam final defeat. There can be fewer worthy, more deserving or more heroic champions than this young man from Dunblane who has left no stone unturned in his quest to maximise his talent and nurture his gifts. Reflected in his shining eyes by the furiously clicking photographers on Sunday was that blissful happiness that accompanies the feeling that a human being has overcome crushing setbacks and moved past the fear of never knowing if what they dreamed about was possible, to transforming it into reality and experiencing the warm glow of fulfilment along with it. The way his career has run the full gamut of emotions to arrive at this giddy precipice of happiness invests his victory and the feelings around it with a sweet joy and a special significance.
This constant struggle against mental demons, this paragon of dedication to self-improvement resonates far beyond the tennis court in any walk of life. Anyone ever facing a difficult professional or personal obstacle, and doubting their fortitude in the face of apparently insurmountable odds, can look to Andy Murray as an example of how sweet a reward can taste if one never shirks the challenge, but instead rises taller to meet it as it grows ever greater in front of one. Anyone ever facing an apparent brick wall and struggling to find the bravery required to knock it down can draw a link between how Andy Murray must have felt after losing important match after important match to the world’s top three players, and then the soaring, sweet joy that would have engulfed him upon realising how he had overcome the great labour of his life to stand victorious at last. His is a tale of talent alloyed to the greatest human qualities: fortitude of heart and mind, ultimate dedication and constant self-improvement.
There will be people on the tennis courts as a result of his victories, but his shining eyes upon realising what he had done carried a message far and wide to all that finding the bravery to confront life’s great challenges can also bring tremendous rewards. Bravo, Andy Murray, for winning Wimbledon at last and bravo, for winning over and inspiring all of us in the greatest possible way.