Andy Murray has enjoyed a fantastic tennis career up to this point and is no doubt one of the top three players in the world.
Murray led Great Britain to the 2015 Davis Cup championship and brought a Wimbledon championship back to Great Britain when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2013 final, becoming the first British male to capture the historic title since Fred Perry in 1936.
Despite all of his accomplishments, Murray may fall victim to playing right in the middle of a transitioning era in tennis. In his early days, Federer and Nadal were scooping up all of the Grand Slams and that fed right into what we can now call the Djokovic Era—leaving Murray in sort of a tennis limbo.
In the 12 matches since that Wimbledon final, Djokovic has defeated Murray 11 times, four of which have been in Grand Slams. The undisputed best player in the world has also now triumphed over Murray in four Australian Open finals.
“I feel like I’ve been here before,” Murray said to the crowd with a mix of humor and sadness after the final in January. “I’d like to congratulate Novak for six Australian Opens, it’s an incredible feat. I’d like to thank my team for getting me into the position. Sorry I couldn’t get it done tonight.”
It was indeed a tough and distracting few weeks in Melbourne for Murray. He and his wife, Kim Sears, were expecting their first child, and Sears was unable to accompany Murray to the tournament. So the Scot played the tournament with thoughts of his wife in the back of his mind.
And that wasn’t the only family-related matter on his mind. The night before his final, Murray’s older brother, Jamie, was competing in the men’s doubles final and Andy, being a proud younger brother, was on hand taking photos.
“What are you doing here taking photos?” Jamie said to Andy during his victory speech. “You should be in bed.”
Regardless of if late nights affected his performance in the final against Djokovic, this scene just added to the theme of family matters for Murray all-tournament long.
To compound things, Sears’ father, Nigel, who coaches Ana Ivanovic, collapsed and fainted during Ivanovic’s Round of 32 loss to Madison Keys.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for me away from the court, and I thank all you for your support in that,” Murray said. “Finally, to my wife Kim, you’ve been a legend the last two weeks, thank you for all your support. I’ll be on the next flight home.”
Murray did fly home right away and, soon after, he and his wife welcomed their first child, a healthy baby girl named Sophia Olivia.
“He’s in a really good place. He’s got a beautiful daughter that he can dote on and enjoy. It’s a different phase in his life now,” said Leon Smith, Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain. “We’ve been practicing this week. He’s been at Wimbledon every day. He was up in Scotland seeing family, but also practicing. He’s great … very motivated and happy. There are some things more important than tennis, and family is that for him. I don’t know how it will affect him and neither does he, but I just know he’s happy and he’s a brilliant family guy anyway so I can only set it being a positive.”
The 28-year-old Murray hopes the birth of his daughter will have the same effect on him that the birth of Novak Djokovic’s first child had on him.
Since Djokovic and his wife, Jelena, had their first child, Djokovic has gone on a 102-6 tear, winning 14 titles, including two ATP World Tour Finals and four Grand Slam championships.
“It’s tough to tell. I’ve been training again and certainly haven’t been worse,” Murray told The Guardian in an exclusive interview. “I’ve been very motivated in practice. Obviously with Novak and Roger it’s worked out well. I don’t know if having kids made them play better or if they’re just really good. For other players, it hasn’t worked out as well. But fatherhood is a positive thing—and tennis not being your priority can help. It lends perspective when you have a bad loss or bad practice. The outcome of a match is not everything, but I want my daughter to be proud of her dad when she grows up and sees what I did. I hope it works out in a positive way on the court, but if it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world.”
It helps that Djokovic is far and above the best player in the world, so who knows if there is a direct correlation between the two. But that being said, having a child can offer a new perspective both on life and on your career, as Murray admits, which may open the door to a more relaxed and focused Murray.
“I hope you will experience a feeling like no other as that is what happened for me and my wife,” Djokovic told Murray after the Aussie Open final.
Whether or not Murray will ever reach Djokovic’s level or stack up more Grand Slam titles remains to be seen, but we will most likely see a different Andy Murray going forward.
But being the feisty competitor he is, Murray’s immediate goal will be to lead his fellow Britons in their Davis Cup title defense.
“Nobody can underestimate his commitment,” said Smith. “Last year, he was absolutely immense. He was an incredible role model of how to fight for every point for your country.”
And there is no denying Murray’s love for his nation and the pride he takes in competing and representing his nation.
With his family life seemingly more stable than it was in the beginning of the season, Murray should be able to compete for Grand Slam titles yet again. What he was able to do in Melbourne with so much on his mind was nothing short of remarkable, as Smith notes:
“It just shows you the quality he’s got mentally and emotionally to be able to go out there and still fight and compete against the best players in the world and reaching another final of a Grand Slam. He just keeps pushing boundaries.”
The Davis Cup will serve as a nice tune up for Murray, who hasn’t played since the Australian Open. This is a point in the season that has not always been kind to Murray, but with him taking a month off to decompress and then playing the Davis Cup, he will return to the ATP World Tour energized, refreshed and ready to challenge for the top singles spot in the world.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org