December 21, 2020
Andy Murray never ceases to amaze us, even in the twilight of his career.
Few would have made Sir Andy the favourite against British number one Dan Evans.
After all, Murray hadn’t played since October and that tough defeat to Fernando Verdasco in Cologne.
But it was the determined Scot who beat Evans 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 in two hours and thirty-two thrilling minutes in Roehampton.
Perhaps it was fitting that the battle took place just down the road from Wimbledon.
In the long run, this is all valuable preparation for Murray’s big target – Wimbledon 2021.
We can now feel even more confident that Andy will be there. What happens to his career beyond that is anyone’s guess.
He will hope for an appearance at the Olympics in Tokyo. Then it could be game over for the best-loved player in British tennis history.
Opportunities to see this legend in action will be few and far between from here, you sense.
We must enjoy this giant of our sport while we still can. Wimbledon is sure to bring out the best in him. The scenes will be emotional.
For now, Murray is building towards the Australian Open, which begins on February 8.
Andy should have a wildcard entry into the “Happy Slam,” where this time last year they mistakenly said goodbye to him once and for all.
We have learnt in the last year that you write off Sir Andy at your peril. He possesses a spirit that simply can’t be extinguished.
But his 33-year-old body won’t be able to hit these stunning heights forever.
And we can’t wait to salute Murray one last time at Wimbledon 2021.
He will give his all to thrill the crowds and ensure the home of tennis has something to cheer once more.
Already we see Murray finding the right mindset and tennis tactics to do just that.
So how did Murray achieve his latest minor miracle? With that stubborn streak that has served him so well.
Six times Evans had the opportunity to break in that cliffhanger of an opening set. Andy never let him.
That is partly testament to Murray’s improved serve, so encouraging for his chances of making a mark in 2021.
We highlighted where Andy was going wrong a few months back. And the revamped serve is still a work in progress.
But it now works consistently enough, for long enough to help its owner prevail.
Murray’s temperament was also impressive, in contrast to an irritable Evans in this match.
Likeable Dan didn’t aim his anger at Andy, though. He was just frustrated at himself.
He fired a ball towards the roof when he lost the tie-break. Then he complained that his serve was “flat as a pancake” as he struggled during an epic opening game of the second set.
Relentless Murray finally broke in that marathon game at the fifth attempt.
It took just as much patience and composure to maintain the pressure and convert his fifth match point, when the time finally came.
Once more, feisty Evans had break-point opportunities. But his wily rival closed the door.
It was a credit to Dan’s character that, even on a difficult day, he very generously conceded his last shot was out, to signal the end of proceedings.
For Murray, it was some kind of revenge for the defeat Evans inflicted at the Battle of the Brits during the summer.
In truth, however, the result didn’t matter. Andy just needed to show he could compete with top players again. And he has done that in style.
Another match awaits on Tuesday against Cameron Norrie, the British number three.
Murray has already beaten him convincingly this year. He will fancy his chances.
A second victory in three days would be a great way to end a challenging year.
Then the Prince of Dunblane will head Down Under for more Grand Slam action.
He loves the big stage. And there is no bigger stage than Wimbledon 2021. We do hope you’ll join us.