by Robert Green
As you surely know, Andy Murray’s distinguished tennis career may be over, brought to a premature end by a recurring hip injury. He has won three Grand Slams, two of those being Wimbledon, collected two Olympic singles gold medals and he led Great Britain to a Davis Cup triumph. (He also reached eight other Grand Slam finals.) He is Britain’s best-ever male tennis player.
Britain’s best-ever male golfer (at least if we’re leaving Harry Vardon out of the mix) is Nick Faldo. He won six major championships and played on four winning Ryder Cup teams, although as non-playing leader of the European team in 2008 he could not have been more removed from the inspiration Murray brought to his tennis colleagues in Belgium in 2015. I’m not going to get into an argument about whose record is the superior.
Other issues aside, golf is not tennis. The physical demands are very different. Tiger Woods has somehow come back to approach the higher levels of the sport he used to dominate but it has been a long and difficult route back towards the top. His last major title was claimed at the 2008 US Open, when he could barely walk. Nobody could win a single tennis match suffering the degree of pain and lack of movement that Woods had to endure at Torrey Pines that year, not even a combination of the best of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
In the past Murray has said that while he enjoyed golf he wouldn’t play it again until he retired from competitive tennis. Maybe by the end of the year he’ll be enjoying rounds at Sunningdale with Tim Henman? As an aside, Murray’s Twitter biography reads simply ‘I play tennis’. Around 25 years ago, a golf writer friend of mine was in a bar in Melbourne when he got into conversation with a guy. Richard, my friend, asked: “So what do you do?” The man replied: “I play tennis.” Richard responded with: “Oh, I play tennis. We should arrange to have a game.” The guy was Pat Cash.
Amid the sadness at Murray’s likely enforced early retirement from competitive tennis, there was some disappointment tinged with anger that perhaps the sport’s governing bodies (i.e. the Lawn Tennis Association) had not done enough to capitalise on his achievements. According to Sport England, there are approximately 60,000 less people playing tennis now than there were 10 years ago. “I don’t get it,” said Jamie Murray, Andy’s brother and a Grand Slam doubles player himself. “How on earth are you going to grow a sport if you can’t do it when you’ve got one of Britain’s most prominent sports people?”
Of course, people in glass houses, etc, and for sure golf itself needs
to do more to get more people on to the course. In that regard, with his Faldo
Junior Series, Nick has certainly done his bit.
You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com