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Andy Murray: lessons from a sporting great

Phil Knox reflects on the life and career of Andy Murray, who announced his retirement this week

In the depths of winter, amidst the frosty mornings and shortened hours of daylight, it can be difficult to remember the feel of the British summer.

But, if you close your eyes for a moment, you can take yourself there, to the smell of burgers sizzling on a barbeque, the sight of morning sunlight bursting through the curtains, and the sound of racquet on ball (accompanied by the occasionally grunt) from Wimbledon. And part and parcel of our country’s love affair with Wimbledon is the tendency to bind our hopes and fears for triumph and glory to the leading British player – our representative in the modern gladiatorial arena. 

In recent years that hopeful has been Sir Andy Murray OBE; but, sadly, it seems we may need to find another hero to live vicariously through each July, as last Friday, he announced in an emotional press conference that he plans to retire after this year’s tournament. Before he goes, let us consider a few lessons we might learn from the first British man to win a Grand Slam title since Fred Perry in 1936

Be ruthlessly you. With the media frenzy and theatres of Twitter and Instagram that surround sports men and women today, fans demand that their heroes do more than just win. There is an unspoken pressure that victory is the most important but not the only facet to a successful personal brand’. We want drama and trophies, but we also want charisma, swagger and style. 

Sir Andy has been relentlessly accused of being a bit dull and devoid of passion. But one of the many things to admire about him is his acceptance of who he is in this regard: People think I am unemotional because my voice is flat and a bit boring. It is unfortunate, but it is just the way it is.” The accusations are actually unfounded. The roars on court, press conference tears and rapier wit reveal more than he is given credit for, but the lesson is there for us. 

Ephesians 2:10 reads: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Today, may you know that you are God’s masterpiece, fearfully and wonderfully made. And may you be ruthlessly you.

Allow suffering to shape you, not destroy you. Like many of us, Andy’s life has not been a fairytale. He was eight when a gunman killed 16 children and a teacher at his school in Dunblane, Scotland. His tennis has demonstrated a determination and resilience reflected in his life. Paul reminded us that, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character and character, hope” (Romans 5:3 – 4). When the storms of life batter, barrage and buffet, may we do more than limp ashore. May we allow the challenges and pain to mould us and grow an endurance in us that empower and enable us to meet future trials and disaster and inspire others to do the same.

Compete to win. I don’t play any tournaments to come second best.” Murray is a ferocious competitor. You do not end Britain’s 77-year wait for a Wimbledon men’s singles champion without a drive to be the best and a belief that you can defy the odds. We cannot all be Murrays, but we can all be the best version of us that God has made. Furthermore, we compete in something far more important than hitting a yellow ball. We are co-renovators of the cosmos, co-builders of the kingdom of God, co-conspirators in bringing life, love and truth to a world that so desperately needs it. Let’s not be half-hearted. This year may we throw ourselves with an even greater intensity and passion into a relationship with and the mission of Jesus: Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

So, thanks Andy. It’s been wonderful cheering for you. As we reflect on your career, may we be more ourselves, more resilient, and carry your desire to win to the cause we were created for.

About the author

Phil Knox is the head of mission to young adults at the Evangelical Alliance. He lives to see people come to know Jesus and Christians inspired and equipped to share their faith. He has a passion for his generation, the local church, loves learning and has degrees in law and mission and evangelism. Phil is married to Dani and they have two sons, Caleb and Jos. He is an avid runner and footballer, a proud Aston Villa supporter and battles a mild coffee addiction.

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