If this summer’s tournament is to be the last time that Andy Murray graces the Wimbledon grass, then to leave as a champion – for the third time – is the kind of fairytale ending usually reserved for the big screen.
And it will indeed need to be the stuff of fairytales for the 34-year-old Scot to pull it off.
Currently ranked 119 in the world, the 2013 and 2016 men’s singles champion was a wild card entry this time around.
Struggling as he is to reach the same levels he so consistently hit prior to the 2018 surgery which saw him fitted with a metal hip, injury-plagued Murray languishes as an 80/1 outsider with some bookmakers to win a title that for so long was the dominant storyline of the summer.
His recent form is sketchy to say the least, while his preparation for his first singles appearance at SW19 in four years hasn’t exactly been ideal.
He was beaten in straight sets by Matteo Berettini in the second round of the Queen’s Club Championships last week having barely played for three months as a result of a groin injury picked up earlier in the year.
Prior to that, Murray missed the Australian Open due to a positive Covid-19 test, then exited both the Open Sud de France and the ABN Amro World Tournament in Rotterdam during the early stages.
Last season, appearances at the US and French Opens ended in similar fashion. One rare high point did see him overcome world No 7 Alexander Zverev in the second round of the 2020 Western & Southern Open, though that victory was his first against a player ranked in the ATP’s top 10 for more than three years.
This year’s Wimbledon draw has pitted Murray against No 24 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round. A run through to the fourth round doesn’t seem inconceivable, but world No 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas could await him in the quarter-finals, with the men’s game’s best player and his long-time sparring partner – Novak Djokovic – a likely opponent in the semis.
Whether he is still physically capable of beating such a high calibre of opponent and making it to the latter stages of a Grand Slam remains to be seen. The real question is whether the man himself intends to carry on if it is once again proven that he is not.
At this stage, it appears that Murray is caught in two minds.
Speaking earlier this week, he revealed that he is approaching Wimbledon 2021 as if this appearance will be his last, while remaining hopeful that it won’t be. “To me it’s not so much about me worrying about it being my last one, it’s just something that I think about,” he said.
“I’ve had so many injuries and so many setbacks you just don’t really know what’s round the corner. I want to approach each tournament and each match that I play like it’s my last one so that I can get the most out of it.
“I don’t want it to be my last Wimbledon; certainly I want to keep playing, I don’t want to stop just now, so, yeah, I want to keep going.
“It’s more about the body; if I’m restricted in how I can prepare. If I can’t prepare properly to compete then that’s when it’s not fair on yourself; to keep putting yourself out there because you’re not properly prepared and can’t do yourself justice.
“So if that was the case and I was having to compromise on my training just to get out there on a match court and my results weren’t good, then that is something I’d look at. But providing I can train and prepare well and I’m enjoying it I’ll do it for as long as I can.”
So, whichever way you look at it, the aforementioned fairytale finale appears to be a non-starter.
Logic, form and science dictate that Murray is extremely unlikely to be able to go the distance at SW19.
And, if he did, then such a feat would presumably only serve to convince him that he still has plenty to give.
What happens on court from Monday morning onwards should provide the first meaningful clue...