2020 ended in style culminating with the 13th French Open title for Rafael Nadal and 20th overall adding another milestone to the illustrious career of the ‘King of Clay’. The win at the French Open 2020 also lead to a trending congratulatory post by Nadal’s greatest rival and friend Roger Federer giving everyone a reason to smile in a year which hasn’t given many such occasions.
While this historic feat by Nadal headlined the tournament, there was another development which was the talking point much before the start of the French Open and it was the return of Former World No.1 Andy Murray as a wild-card entry in the main draw after a career-threatening hip injury that sidelined him since November 2019. Though, Murray did feature at the US Open but his run didn’t last beyond the first round.
Speaking on a special edition of Eurosport’s Tennis Legends Podcast alongside Eurosport experts Alex Corretja – who also used to Coach Murray and former Swedish world no.1 Mats Wilander; eight-time Grand Slam Champion and Murray’s former coach Ivan Lendl with whom Murray won the Wimbledon, US Open and Olympic Gold, gave a wholehearted defence of the Brit’s entitlement to play when he wants to play given all he has achieved in the game.
Ivan Lendl said, “I disagree. I think players like Andy Murray or Pete Sampras, before he won his last US Open, everybody was asking me, ‘shouldn’t Pete Sampras retire?’, and I said, ‘Pete Sampras has earned the right to retire when he wants to retire’.” He further added, “To me, Andy Murray has earned the right to play when he wants to play, as long as he has passion for it and I do believe that Andy has passion.
Lendl also spoke about the wild card system in Grand Slams and said, “Let’s go back a little bit into the history of wildcards. The wildcards, in general, were given to the sponsors to get attractive players for the tournament. It kind of turned somewhat towards young players, which is fine as well. But it’s not written anywhere that it needs to be a young player and not somebody older.” He said
Analysing the turn of events at the French Open 2020 he said, “What happened at the French I think was not normal. Something else happened and I don’t know what it was, but I think Andy has the passion. “I think Andy is trying to prove that he can come back after a serious hip surgery, and all I can say is we should all be pulling for him and wishing him the best.”
Swedish legend, Mats Wilander who was a witness to the 33-year-old Murray’s encounter against Stan Wawrinka and commentated on Eurosport about it said he received a bit of criticism for his comments on the Brit. “I got in a little bit of trouble here during the French Open with Andy Murray. He lost to Stan Wawrinka in the first round. And I was watching it and commentated on it for Eurosport. And I thought we saw on Andy Murray that wasn’t that excited. He got beaten pretty easily. He wasn’t excited. He wasn’t angry. We all worked really hard as well on the tennis court, but not off the court. Andy Murray, he works this hard and he shows up at the French Open and he doesn’t show emotion.”
Though he agreed to the fact that there is no loss of commitment from Murray and while speaking on podcast vouched for him after Lendl’s disagreement saying, “I’m pulling for him 100 per cent. He has deserved it. I think the interesting question is passion. Does Andy have the passion? And I think he does. I am 100 per cent sure he does.”