WE’RE at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in the small town of Newport, Rhode Island, on July 6 2005.
British sport has just heard the shock announcement that London has beaten Paris to stage the Olympic Games in seven years’ time and sitting alongside us is an 18-year-old Andy Murray.
In an emotional press conference ahead of Australian Open, Andy Murray announced he would retire this yearGetty Images – GettySuch had been the success of his debut at Wimbledon – where he’d reached the third round and led former finalist David Nalbandian by two sets before succumbing – that a clutch of British journalists had been sent across the Atlantic to watch the next big thing in his next event.
Murray, a virtual unknown just a week earlier, is shy and uneasy, his unfamiliar voice sounds impossibly gruff but he makes an effort.
He talks about being a supporter of Hibernian, for whom his grandfather had once played.
Then he tells us, quite casually and without a hint of arrogance, that he intends to win the Olympic gold medal at Wimbledon in 2012.
It made us a good line on the day the London Olympics has been announced.
After all, 2012 seemed a long way off and Murray would at least be of the right age to contend for a medal by then.
Despite a long rehab, Murray says he is still in pain due to his recurring hip injury that required a surgery 12 months agoInstagram @andymurrayYoung Murray vowed in 2005 to win the gold during the 2012 Olympic Games in LondonAFP or licensorsYet a male British tennis player triumphing at Wimbledon?
Even after Tim Henman had reached a string of Grand Slam semi-finals (though never a final) it was our nation’s impossible sporting dream.
Never since Fred Perry, in the 1930s had it been achieved.
We didn’t really believe this scruffy-looking Scottish kid would emulate him.
Of course, Murray did win that Olympic gold – it was his breakthrough success after several years of competing at the top level in the greatest era tennis has ever known.
A couple of months later, Murray won his first Slam, the U.S Open, and the following year, Wimbledon itself – and in straight sets against Novak Djokovic too.
As he promised, the Scot became the Olympic champion when the British capital hosted the GamesPA:Press AssociationMurray also defended his title four years later in Rio de Janeiro, BrazilPA:Press AssociationThere wasn’t even any nerve-shredding tension we’d expected had we ever lived to see a British bloke win on Centre Court on the final Sunday.
Today Murray, has told us that the end is near.
Due to a chronic hip problem, the 31-year-old may retire as soon as next week or at Wimbledon this summer, at the very latest.
It was a privilege to be there for many of Murray’s finest moments.
He truly has been one of the greatest sportsmen in British history.
In fact he has a claim to having been the greatest of them all.
Murray celebrating his Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon in 2016AFP or licensors
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On his best days, he could defeat Roger Federer, despite having nowhere the same levels of natural talent as the Swiss genius.
And he could also defeat Rafa Nadal, despite having nothing like the physical stature of the Spanish Adonis.
Murray was gifted, of course, but he reached the heights because he possessed lorry-loads of grit.
His fighting spirit was supernatural – which was fully apparent in Rio de Janeiro where we watched him defeat Juan Martin Del Potro in an epic slug-fest to become the first man to defend an Olympic singles title.
But after that first meeting in Rhode Island, an even more memorable Murray press conference arrived in Ghent, Belgium in November 2015.
The day before Murray had won his single rubber against David Goffin to clinch Great Britain’s first Davis Cup in 79 years – his brother Jamie, a world-class doubles player, having been his chief ally along the way.
Murray’s accolades were appreciated with two SPOTY awards in 2012 and 2015PA:Press Association
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Now a morning-after press conference is normally an occasion to tell tales of the previous night’s celebrations and bask in the glory of it all.
But not with Murray, who used the set-piece occasion to comprehensively trash the lack of the leadership at the Lawn Tennis Association, who he believed had spurned their lavish Wimbledon earnings, wasted his own legacy and failed to produce a next generation of leading British tennis players.
It was the tennis equivalent of Harry Kane winning the World Cup and then immediately demolishing the reputation of the FA.
Stunning, brutal but searingly intelligent and hugely knowledgeable.
Murray, who emerged from outside the LTA system, should end up leading the organisation one day.
Following Great Britain’s victory in the Davis Cup in 2015, Murray launched an attack on the Lawn Tennis Association for lack of leadershipPA:Press AssociationMurray went on to win a second Wimbledon, that second Olympic gold and then, in what turned out to be his final great achievement, became the year-ending World No 1 by claiming the ATP Tour Championships in London in 2016.
And the thing is that you look back and you realise that the wiry, scruffy 18-year-old we met in Newport, Rhode Island, must have believed it was all possible right from the very start.
by – thesun.co.uk/sport