So Scottish superstar Andy Murray is quitting tennis and TV viewing will never be the same again for his legions of passionate fans, writes Craig Goldthorp.
The two-time Wimbledon champion has finally had to admit defeat in his battle against agonising hip pain and Monday's five set Australian Open first round defeat against Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut could very well be his last ever tournament.
Murray’s emotional exit speech in Melbourne illustrated the double Olympic gold medallist and 2012 US Open champion’s distress about leaving the sport which has been his life for the past two decades.
Murray – Wimbledon champion in 2013 and 2016 and 2015 Davis Cup winner with Great Britain – made it clear he hopes to play through the pain barrier in the coming months before finally bowing out at this summer’s Wimbledon.
I don’t know about you, but I felt myself getting emotional when I heard this Scottish hero break down at that Aussie press conference, which he walked out of before returning to face journalists again a few minutes later.
In an era featuring three all-time greats in Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, this one-time skinny kid from Dunblane has done exceptionally well to carve out so much success in a career which has garnered him the wonderful total of 45 career ATP titles as well as reaching world number one for a period from November 2016.
Murray’s exit is undoubtedly a major blow for tennis in this country. After a glorious run of success for a Brit at the highest level of the sport, it is hugely doubtful if the heights reached by Murray will be matched by anyone from these islands as long as the sport is played.
In my opinion, British TV viewers’ interest levels in watching Wimbledon will be hit considerably. After being spoiled rotten by watching Murray’s often spellbindingly thrilling and unmissable matches over the years – including unforgettable Wimbledon final triumphs over Djokovic and Canadian Milos Raonic – it appears that cheering on British number one Kyle Edmund until he’s put out around the last 16 stage is now all we have to look forward to in the near future.
No harm to the stoic Edmund, but saying he exudes charisma is a bit like saying that folicly bedraggled Tory MP Boris Johnson spends an hour in front of the bathroom mirror styling his hair every morning.
And keeping punters interested in watching tennis minus Murray is a problem which the sport will have more and more over the next few years, as age inevitably catches up with fellow veterans 37-year-old Federer (winner of 20 majors), 32-year-old Nadal (17 majors) and 31-year-old Djovokic (14 majors) and they also quit.
Since Murray arrived on the Wimbledon scene as a raw teenager and became the first Scot in the open era to reach the men’s singles third round in 2005, I’ve avidly followed every subsequent tournament annually on TV.
With Murray away and the other members of the ‘Big Four’ set to follow, the likelihood of me having similar enthusiasm for Wimbledon tournaments over the next few years is about as believable as fans paying just 50p a pop for a portion of strawberries and cream at the All England Club.