Alex Chick

Sir Andy Murray: greater than Redgrave, Hoy and Wiggins

Alex Chick

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Let's just get the formalities over with and give Andy Murray that knighthood right now. Why wait until the New Year?

The Scotsman has achieved feats every bit as skyscraping as Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Steve Redgrave.

In fact, Murray has surpassed that remarkable trio, and should go down as the greatest British sportsman of the modern era.

Let me explain, for this is not simply the knee-jerk reaction of a blog drunk on emotion and Pimm's.

Though he is still ranked number two, Murray looks very much like the best tennis player in the world. He holds two Grand Slams plus the Olympic title. He won Wimbledon. Andy Murray won Wimbledon. Wimbledon!

I wanted Murray to win 2012's Sports Personality award, but acknowledged that a US Open title won at 2am and an Olympic gold claimed just after the delirium of Super Saturday - though extraordinary accomplishments - would not be enough to convince a nationwide audience.

The public have been suspicious of Murray ever since a brooding, sulky teenager made a quip about wanting England to lose at the 2006 World Cup.

Let's bear in mind that Murray is Scottish, and his comment was testament to little more than British sport's multiple personalities. And yet the remark was held against him for years, his crime embellished to the point where thousands remain adamant that Murray actually took to the court at SW19 wearing a Paraguay shirt.

Inasmuch as these most anti-Murray nincompoops are worth winning over, it was always going to take a Wimbledon victory to do that. Job done.

Andy Murray has won Wimbledon. Britain's Andy Murray has WON WIMBLEDON. For anyone who grew up in an era when a Jeremy Bates run to the third round represented success, this is simply unbelievable.

There is no mileage in knocking the aforementioned knights, but let's get their achievements in perspective.

Redgrave attained excellence over an astonishing period, winning five straight Olympic golds. But this is rowing, a minority sport in which, last year in London, 14 gold medal events took place. Nobody would suggest that winning a rowing gold is easy, but it is not the same as being the best - the absolute, individual best - at a sport played by the world.

A similar case can be made for Murray over his fellow Scot Hoy. Brilliant though his career was, Hoy was the world's best track sprint cyclist. That's a fairly niche sub-section of a sport with less global popularity and participation than tennis.

Wiggins certainly achieved the 'impossible' when he won the Tour de France. But I never grew up wishing for a British yellow jersey the same way I wanted a British Wimbledon champion. Cycling is a welcome newcomer into the ranks of mainstream sports in this country, but a newcomer all the same.


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What's more, Redgrave, Wiggins and Hoy all benefited from a strong structure in their sports. Not to say they didn't make tremendous personal sacrifices to reach the top, but they had the support of teams and organisation with a track record of breeding success. You only have to see Chris Froome's progress in this year's Tour de France to realise that Dave Brailsford (another Sir) and Team Sky create an environment in which excellent cyclists can be the best.

As for Murray? He stands alone, particularly in the men's game. Far from enjoying a leg up from the national federation, he went abroad to hone his skills. While this is not a time for LTA-bashing, you cannot escape the feeling that he has prevailed in spite, not because, of it.

Murray may lack the others' longevity, and we hope that his best days lie ahead, but he has quietly compiled quite a career over the last 10 years.

Since 2008 he has reached seven Grand Slam finals, winning two. This is no Johnny-come-lately. His year-end rankings since breaking into the top 20:

2006 - 17
2007 - 11
2008 - 4
2009 - 4
2010 - 4
2011 - 4
2012 - 3

That's the sort of consistency of which Sir Steve Redgrave might approve, achieved during an era bestridden by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Murray has already surpassed both men in the rankings, and number one is now a realistic possibility.

Loftier peaks are there to be scaled, but this is not about that. Even if his career ended tomorrow, Andy Murray would unquestionably count as one of this country's greatest-ever sportsmen.

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Alex Chick

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