Andy Murray is getting set to say farewell to Wimbledon before retirement (probably)

LONDON (AP) — If this does actually turn out to be the end for Andy Murray at Wimbledon — and, given his history, there are those who don't believe, or maybe just don't want to believe, the 37-year-old from Scotland definitely will never return — he will be celebrated and remembered for all sorts of reasons.

Murray decided he was not ready to play singles shortly after surgery to remove a cyst on his spine, but he was scheduled to compete in men's doubles with his older brother, Jamie, at Centre Court on Thursday.

And on Wednesday, the All England Club announced there will be at least one more chance for fans to see Murray play at the tournament he always will be most closely associated with, because he and 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu were awarded a wild-card entry for mixed doubles.

Asked how long it took her to accept Murray's invitation to team up, Raducanu replied: “Literally, like 10 seconds.”

“Some things are bigger than just tennis. Some things are a once-in-a-lifetime memory that you’re going to have for the rest of your life,” she said. “At the end of my life, at the end of my career, when I’m like 70 years old, I know I’m going to have that memory of playing Wimbledon with Andy Murray (at) a home Slam. For me, yeah, it was an honor to be asked.”

Murray won singles championships at Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016, the first of which made him the first British man to triumph in singles at the All England Club in 77 years.

“I’ll make sure I make the most of it,” Murray said about his farewell appearance at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament. “It’s easier said than done to just enjoy it when you’re out there, because you’re competing and concentrating, trying to win the match.”

One would imagine the spectators will just enjoy watching, no matter the result.

“Most people already have their ideas and opinions of him and what he means to them or what he brought to the tennis court. His determination, more than anything, sort of probably overrides most things that people maybe think about. His almost, like, ‘refuse-to-lose’ attitude,” Jamie Murray said. “In this country, he took a lot of people along for the ride on a journey with him over the last 15 years.”

Andy Murray said he plans to retire after the Paris Olympics; the tennis event will be hosted at Roland Garros, the site of the French Open, and begins on July 27.

Skeptics note that he announced he was going to quit in 2019 — a year after his first hip operation, and shortly before his second — and there was even a ceremony and a tribute video shown after Murray's first-round loss at the Australian Open that January. He, of course, returned, playing on an artificial hip.

“You never know. He might be back next year. I have no idea,” said Katie Boulter, a British player seeded 32nd in the women's bracket. “Never say ‘never’ with Andy.”

Murray's accomplishments are many. The three Grand Slam titles, including at the U.S. Open in 2012. The year-end No. 1 ranking in 2016. The two consecutive gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games, the only player with more than one Olympic singles title in tennis.

He became Britain's most significant tennis player in decades, earning enormous popularity and a knighthood bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II, while also remaining an outspoken statesman in his sport, voicing opinions on various issues, particularly when it comes to women. His hiring of Amelie Mauresmo as his coach was groundbreaking.

“He’s the best role model that a British tennis player can have, especially a Scottish player like myself. I watched him growing up," said Jacob Fearnley, a wild-card recipient in singles who faces 24-time major champion Novak Djokovic on Centre Court on Thursday. “The way he climbed up the rankings, the way he competes, the way he plays — it’s super special to see.”

Coco Gauff, last year's U.S. Open champion, and other female players have spoken in recent days about Murray's support for women in the sport.

Gauff recalled the viral clip of Murray speaking at a Wimbledon news conference in 2017, when a reporter referred to Sam Querrey as “the first American player to reach the semifinal of a Slam since 2009,” and Murray interrupted to note that Querrey was the first ”male player" from the U.S. to do so in that span, because plenty of women from the country had done so.

“I do appreciate him. Not only him, but also his mother, for everything they’ve done for equality for women’s sports,” Gauff said.

As for Murray the athlete, Gauff mentioned a quality that plenty of others did, too.

“I think his legacy is that he’s just a fighter. The most inspiration I have from him is, no matter what court he’s playing, whether it’s (at a low-level event) or Centre Court here, he’s putting 100% effort into that,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate he couldn’t get one last healthy (singles) match out here, ’cause I definitely think he deserves to end his career on his terms. I hope that the doubles goes well. ... He’s definitely an icon of the sport. He’s had an incredible career that a lot of people dream of.”


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