Sport Comment: Andy at a crossroads as he prepares for historic defence

 
John Inverdale
ANDY Murray walks on to centre court today for the first time as Wimbledon champion. Just to be able to write that sentence almost brings a tear to the eye. It is unlikely that there is a single person in your vicinity, whether on train, bus or in traffic jam, who has ever been able to read such a sentence about a British tennis player, such was the enormity of Murray’s achievement last summer, 77 years on from Fred Perry.

So over the weekend countless pundits have been speculating on Murray’s prospects of retaining his crown. Will he be a two-slam wonder, or having banished seven decades of pressure will he, with the aid of new coach Amelie Mauresmo, be able to push on to three, four or maybe more?

NOTHING TO PROVE
The only certainty about Murray’s future is that nothing is certain. The idiosyncrasies that make him such a fascinating and compelling character, and which make him employ Ivan Lendl and then Mauresmo as coaches, mean that he really is just as likely to take his game to the next level over the next two years as he is to call it quits and become a boxing promoter or a major shareholder in Hibs.

He is not the kind of person though, who will accept being in the sport’s second division. If the new kids in town, Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and the rest, start taking control of the sport as Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have in recent years, and Andy is not in there with them, he’ll walk away, because there will be nothing left to achieve, nothing left to prove, to any of us, and certainly not to himself.

EFFORTLESS
These next two weeks will give us an indication about Andy’s future within the game. The draw has been kind, and he should make it through to the second week without too much bother. But then it’s Dimitrov. And then it’s Djokovic. And it’s anybody’s guess.

But most important on this historic day, is for us all to appreciate Murray while we have him. That effortless power. The magnificent tactical brain. The dexterity and touch like no British player before, or probably to come. Savour the moment at 1pm this afternoon, because it might – genuinely, and whatever your age – never happen in your lifetime again.

ORDER OF PLAY

Centre Court (from 1pm)
■ Men’s Singles: Andy Murray (GBR) [3] v David Goffin (BEL)

■ Ladies’ Singles: Paula Kania (POL) v Na Li (CHN) [2]

■ Men’s Singles: Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] v Andrey Golubev (KAZ)