The two oldest players still alive in this year’s BNP Paribas Open men’s singles draw just so happen to be good friends – and absolute legends of the game.
There are 1,274 wins, 62 ATP titles and six Grand Slam singles crowns between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka. Even better, there also exists a mutual respect that crosses the lines of competition and makes these legends the unofficial two amigos of this year’s BNP Paribas Open.
If it is inspiration you seek when you walk through the gates of Tennis Paradise on Monday, make a beeline to see one of these two legends up close and in person. Better yet, watch them both.
Former World No.1 Murray, who spent three hours and 12 minutes on court while winning a first-round battle of attrition against Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry on Thursday, then dispatched Moldava’s Radu Albot routinely on Monday, has been steadily climbing the rankings in 2023. He believes he’ll blow his current ranking of 55 out of the water by season’s end.
“QUIT” is not in his vocabulary@andy_murray 🦁 pic.twitter.com/n3MFpjKRYU
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 11, 2023
“I think that my ranking will get to the highest ranking that I’ve been at since I’ve had the operations,” Murray told reporters, referring to the two hip surgeries he endured in 2018 and 2019. “It’s exciting to see how far I can push this, and push my body.”
Murray will take on his 21-year-old Brit Jack Draper in a must-see generational clash on Monday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Draper is seen as the future of British men’s tennis, but Murray, stubborn to his core, is not yet ready to yield to the ATP’s generation next.
The window for getting to No.1 or winning another Slam may have passed Murray by, but there’s still plenty to play for.
“There are certain things I would like to achieve before I finish playing, and goals I set myself, but the number one thing is to give my best effort every single day, and if I do that I’ll finish my career on a high note,” says Murray.
“Warrior” is an overused term of endearment in tennis circles, but when it comes to the great Scot, a three-time Grand Slam champion and two-time Olympic singles gold medalist, the term doesn’t begin to do him justice. He has soldiered on with a titanium hip since 2019, resisting calls for retirement and turning over every rock in pursuit of his tennis.
Same for Wawrinka, who has undergone multiple knee and foot surgeries in recent years. The 100th-ranked Swiss, affectionately known as “the Stanimal” due to the otherworldly physical prowess he put on display during his prime, continues to chase his endless summer with the same urgent intensity that made him a three-time Slam champion back in the day.
Murray, who will turn 36 in May, says he has been keeping tabs on Wawrinka, who will celebrate his 38th birthday on March 28th.
“Me and Stan always stayed in touch during the injuries and stuff, not like daily but messages here and there,” he told reporters on Thursday. “We always got on very well together and obviously we’ve shared the court with each other many times.”
Wawrinka, who blasted past 27th-seeded Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6(8), 6-4 on Saturday, has recently rehired Magnus Norman, the legendary coach who helped guide him to a trio of Grand Slam triumphs and a career-best No.3 ranking.
Like Murray, the Swiss seems to thrive on proving the doubters wrong. He may be 37 going on 38, but there’s still brilliance in that body of his.
“I’m not young anymore,” he told Andrew Eichenholz of ATPTour.com this week. “Things are a bit more difficult also to keep going back-to-back-to-back days, to push through a tournament. But I still believe that I can win tournaments. I don’t know which level of tournament, but of course I want to win a trophy before stopping.”
Whether peaking or not, the fact that Murray and Wawrinka are still gracing faithful tennis fans with their presence is a blessing. As we learned last year, when legends Roger Federer and Serena Williams called it quits on their careers, all good things must come to an end.
Thankfully for these two, the final chapter has yet to be written.