“You give what you get” — What Davis Cup triumph could mean for Andy Murray

As Great Britain prepare for a year-ending battle with Belgium in the Davis Cup final, one man is at the fore-front of everyone’s watch list. If the United Kingdom triumphs at the inter-country competition for the first time since 1936, what will it mean for Andy Murray’s legacy?

For years, it wasn’t the Big Four. It was the Big Three.

For Great Britain, perhaps, the legendary trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic had an extra tag-on — namely the player from Dunblane who sailed through Masters Series events and everything below them, but couldn’t quite work out how to break through the Grand Slam semi-finals barrier.

But it was only in 2012, when Andy Murray had finally — after five unsuccessful finals — dragged himself across the finish line and hoisted the US Open trophy, that the rest of the world finally acknowledged the existence of a Big Four in men’s tennis. And when Andy kept up steam and completed a historic Wimbledon triumph in July of the following year, it was a quartet firmly consolidated in the tennis world.

Yet Murray is still, by reputation, the lowest ranked member of the Big Four pack. The player who — if he does not restart triumph in the final stages of the highest calibre tournaments and against the best of the game — is in danger of being lost amongst the pages of the history books. The achievements of Roger, Rafa and Nole will resound continuously, but Andy Murray will be nothing more than the little dog nipping at their heels — to the people who never watched him compete. Why?

Because however Rafael Nadal is struggling at the present time, and whatever dips and rises Roger Federer traverses, it cannot change what is already set in stone. Federer, with his 17 Grand Slam titles, will forever be a contender for the title ‘Greatest Player of All Time’, whilst Rafa will be the unquestioned King of Clay — with his 9 French Open titles to back him up.

Because in the future, the Golden Era’s reigning stars will not be remembered for months spent in search of missing form. As the next generations of fans focus on the new talent, the fresh players of the game, the champions of the past will be remembered for their numbers. How many wins in that head-to-head record? How many Grand Slam titles?

And this is where Murray currently draws the short straw. His two majors are nothing on Nadal’s 14, Roger’s 17 and Novak Djokovic’s rapidly expanding 10. And he trails his head-to-heads with all three of the aforementioned players. His dogged consistency and numerous tournament triumphs will be noted — but they will label him as the leading challenger, and not the champion. The onlookers of the future will not witness the current sharpness and drive to succeed that mean the 28-year-old can match the best on his day — and more.

And that is why a non-major tournament — a non ATP tournament, at that — can actually do much for the legacy of Andy Murray. In the ITF’s Davis Cup — an event once overlooked, of little priority, of less importance — the former world no. 2 could take his first step towards closing the gap between himself and his contemporaries. At the same time, he’ll be making his legacy a loud one.

In relation to the three guys who have simultaneously made and destroyed his career, the way in which Davis Cup could help his stance is quite simple.

Andy Murray has something that Roger Federer does not have: An Olympic singles gold medal. Should he claim Davis Cup triumph, he would have an achievement that Novak — who is more interested in getting his hands on that tantilising Roland Garros crown — does not poseess. And as Rafa sees the opportunity of claiming the World Tour Finals slipping away from him, Murray likely has more time ahead of him in which to attain that glory.

In short, a Davis Cup triumph would put Murray closer to having a full collection of major tennis victories. The Davis Cup, Olympic gold, Wimbledon and the US Open would be in the books. Excluding the World Tour Finals, that would leave only the Australian Open — where he has come close many times over — and the French Open — on whose surface, dare we say it, he is fast becoming efficient — to claim. It doesn’t matter about multiple triumphs. Just one will do.

Maria Sharapova is a prime example of this. The Russian’s five Grand Slam titles are relatively meagre when up against even the likes of Venus Williams’ seven. Yet she will go down in history for triumphing at all four major tournaments.

In the confidence it would provide him with, and in the prestige it would add to his career, a Davis Cup win would do much for Murray’s future reputation — especially as he is being steadily noted as the backbone of his team.

Yet the second reason Davis Cup victory would affect his legacy is even more important. At least, it will appear so to Andy Murray.

Over the years, the Scot has found it hard to endear himself to the Great British public. His stiff manner, on-court temper tantrums and die-hard pride in his Scottish roots have turned many Brits not just away from his support team, but steadily against him.

Yet as Andy Murray has worked hard to find his way on the tennis court, he has simultaneously worked his way into the hearts of his country. Inch by inch. One win followed by another, and then one Wimbledon-final-losing tear at a time.

He’s risen to heights. He’s shown his emotion and his inner self. And as the months have rolled by, it has almost been enough.

The Davis Cup would be the crowning moment, the final victory, the momentous achievement to finally win the doubters over. Once, he left the tournament by the wayside. But after the years of doubt, the constant questioning, the ‘No’ vote for Scottish independence, Andy Murray has gone all out to show his nation what it means to represent them.

Apparently, it’s worth forgoing the ATP World Tour Finals for, in order to chase an achievement that is not just for himself… but for everyone else in the United Kingdom.

For himself, and for many others, that will be a major part of his legacy.

And an ultimate triumph? It would only enhance it.

Originally published at www.live-tennis.com.

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