Forget #SPOTY - here’s our British sportsman and sportswoman of the decade

Top man: Andy Murray.
Top man: Andy Murray.
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The annual parade of champions and celebrities that is the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year show, got me thinking about the bigger picture as the chapter closes on the decade.

Read more Here’s last night’s winner
Who is the sports personality of the decade – or rather, the British sportsman of the last 10 years and the British sportswoman of the teens?

Top woman: Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Top woman: Jessica Ennis-Hill.

I could hold you in suspense and reel off a list of contenders before revealing my winner by presenting him and her with a signed copy of The Yorkshire Post, two tickets to ‘An Evening with Chris Waters’ and a 2020 calendar of Yorkshire’s best tourist attractions.

But I will not do that, I’m going to cut straight to the top step.

Britain’s sportsman of the decade is, and quite simply has to be, Andy Murray.

Scotland’s finest as he was at the end of the Noughties quickly became Britain’s greatest and for a brief period, the world’s best.

For the winner, a signed copy of The Yorkshire Post, two tickets to ‘An Evening with Chris Waters’ and a 2020 calendar of Yorkshire’s best tourist attractions.

Nick Westby

He broke the oldest curse in British sport, took us on a journey in tennis beyond just two giddy weeks every summer, and also transformed himself from a churlish adolescent into a likeable, modern-day family man.

Murray has been in our lives for 15 years, from the moment he was touted as the next best thing after winning the junior US Open, to even now, in the year he was supposed to have retired, he pops up on our screens as part of an Amazon documentary about hip resurfacing.

As the 20s approach, his story is not yet finished. Much like Tiger Woods’ remarkable comeback at Augusta earlier this year, there remains a flicker inside Murray that will not die. Maybe he has one more stunning chapter to write.

I for one, would love that to be at an Australian Open, the tournament he has come so close to conquering on five occasions and where, at the start of 2019, he broke down in tears and admitted defeat in his bid to recover from a hip injury.

But even without one more chapter, the accomplishments will stand the test of time, particularly when put into the context that it came in the era of three men who will be remembered as the best of all time – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The standard they have set, which Murray fell short of, should not be a stick to beat the Scot with.

His record is unblemished: two Wimbledon titles, one US Open, eight more grand slam finals, two Olympic golds and a Davis Cup.

Murray’s win at Flushing Meadows in 2012 may have been the long-awaited major breakthrough but it is his dismantling of Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final that stands out as his greatest individual achievement, ending the country’s 77-year wait for a men’s singles champion.

The outpouring of relief was felt the length and breadth of Britain. Murray united a nation that day.

Two-and-a-half years later in Belgium, he took that nation on his back to deliver a Davis Cup triumph.

He played every game, singles and doubles, such was the importance he attached to elevating his country to the highest echelon.

He bookended his major honours with Olympic gold in London and Rio and ended 2016 with a hectic schedule aimed at taking him to the world’s No 1 spot.

He managed it, but broke his body in the process.

Lewis Hamilton won five of his six world titles this decade, but an enchanted nation never felt the elation of victory and the sheer hurt of defeat quite as much as they did with Murray, a surefire recipient of Britain’s sportsman of the decade honour.

Our sportswoman of the decade, is a little more closer to home – Jessica Ennis-Hill.

For domination of her sport there is no-one to match her – Olympic gold and silver plus three world titles spanning six years.

She also had the personal injuries to overcome which help these athletes become so endearing. The pain of missing the Beijing Olympics of 2008 helped make her redemption, her crowning moment in her home country four years later, all the more gratifying.

Ennis was the poster girl of London 2012 and she delivered heptathlon gold under the most intense of pressures.

Her background, too, a mixed-race girl in Sheffield who caught the eye of an up-and-coming coach in Toni Minichiello, merely enhanced the narrative of a nation’s sweetheart.

Nicola Adams, her fellow Yorkshirewoman, could lay claim to the title of Britain’s sportswoman of the decade for all she accomplished in the ring and out of it, but what Ennis-Hill did after London elevates her to another level.

Ennis-Hill had a baby, changing her body, her life and her training routine beyond anything else, and still came back within a year to reclaim the heptathlon world title.

Only a superhuman effort from Nafi Thiam denied her a successful defence of her Olympic title in Rio. Silver was no second-best, though, after a remarkable comeback.

Yorkshire’s finest remained the Queen of British athletics.

So Mr Murray and Mrs Ennis-Hill, we salute you.

You are our nation’s finest. A signed copy of The Yorkshire Post is in the post.