Tennis has been transformed over the last five decades by TV, money, technology, equipment, fashion and politics. But through all of that, the players have remained at the heart of the game. As part of our golden anniversary celebration of the Open era, Tennis.com presents its list of 50 best players—the Top 25 men and the Top 25 women—of the last 50 years. You’ll be able to view the entire list in the March/April issue of TENNIS Magazine.
(Note: Only singles results were considered; any player who won a major title during the Open era had his or her entire career evaluated; all statistics are through the 2018 Australian Open.)
Years played: 2004—present
Major titles: 3 (2013, 2016 Wimbledon; 2012 US Open)
“I think I persevered,” Murray said after winning his first Wimbledon title, in 2013. “That’s really been it, the story of my career probably. I had a lot of tough losses, but the one thing I would say is I think every year I always improved a little bit.”
Honest and accurate, with no need for boasting: That’s what we would expect from a self-assessment by Murray. Even in the wake of his greatest triumph—his Wimbledon win ended a 77-year drought for British men at their home Slam—Murray could step back and acknowledge the often-painful process that had finally taken him to the top of the tennis mountain.
From the start, as Roger Federer recognized in their first meeting in 2004, Murray was one of the most gifted players of his generation. His mother was his first coach, and Murray had the sport inscribed in his DNA. He possessed all the tools for the 21st century baseline game: At 6’3″, he could hit for power, yet he also had the speed to defend, the anticipation to make his service return a weapon, the versatility to master any shot, and the patience to hit them over and over again.
There was only one problem: Murray’s timing. He entered the pro ranks alongside one of the ATP’s greatest generations. While Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic recorded double-digit Grand Slam victories, Murray lost his first four major finals. But this most conscientious of athletes felt an obligation to his fans at home, who hoped he could end their Wimbledon curse. He also felt an obligation to his talent, and he never stopped looking for ways to maximize it. Murray put on muscle and improved his stamina; he added pace to his serve; he tried half a dozen coaches.
Finally, beginning in 2012, the breakthroughs came, one by one: Murray won an Olympic gold that summer, and followed it with his first major title, at the US Open. In 2013, he won Wimbledon. In 2015, he led Great Britain to its first Davis Cup in 76 years. And in 2016, he won another Wimbledon and another Olympic gold, and became the first British man in the Open era to be ranked No. 1. Murray lived up to the sky-high standards of his generation, and made his era a little more golden along the way.
Defining Moment: “My head was kind of everywhere.” That’s how Murray described the long, torturous final game of the 2013 Wimbledon final. To the Centre Court crowd’s dismay, his opponent, Novak Djokovic, saved multiple championship points, but a woozy Murray somehow survived. It was fitting: during his career, Murray has never made it easy, but he’s always made it.
Watch: Andy Murray wins 2013 Wimbledon title
FOLLOW THE MEN’S AND WOMEN’S COUNTDOWNS OF THE 50 GREATEST PLAYERS OF THE OPEN ERA THROUGHOUT THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY RIGHT HERE.