‘Absolutely pathetic’: Andy Murray defended over French Open wildcard

Daniel Vallverdu and Jim Courier hit back at Mats Wilander’s criticism of the Scot

Andy Murray lost 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 against Stan Wawrinka in the French Open first round
Daniel Vallverdu and Jim Courier hit back at Mats Wilander’s criticism of the Scot 
(Image credit: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images)

Ex-players and coaches have defended Andy Murray after the British tennis star suffered a heavy defeat in the French Open first round on Sunday.

Former world No.1 Murray lost 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 against Stan Wawrinka in the opening round at Roland Garros, in what was his joint heaviest grand slam defeat ever, BBC Sport reports.

Following his career-threatening hip injury and surgery, 33-year-old Murray was making his first appearance on clay since June 2017 after being handed a wildcard to compete in Paris.

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The decision to give the three-time grand slam winner a wildcard was criticised by former tennis star Mats Wilander, who suggested that the Scot was wrong to take a spot when he’s nearing the end of his career, The Guardian reports.

Wilander, a seven-time grand slam champion, also made unsuccessful comebacks in his playing days. Speaking on Eurosport, the Swede said: “I worry about Andy Murray. I would love to hear him say why he is out there, giving us a false sense of hope that he’s going to come back one day.

“I keep getting a little bit disappointed, is it his right to be out there doing that? Why? I did it and I shouldn’t have, it was the biggest mistake I did in my career.

“I think Andy Murray needs to stop thinking of himself and start thinking about who he was. Does he have a right to be out there taking wildcards from the young players?”

Murray defended

Wilander’s criticism did not go down well with Daniel Vallverdu, the current coach of Wawrinka, who worked with Murray earlier in his career. He wrote on Twitter: “He’s entitled to his opinion. Like I’m entitled to mine to think that’s absolutely PATHETIC from Mats.”

American Jim Courier, a four-time slam winner, is friends with Wilander, but he believes Murray has the right to take wildcards and continue playing the top tournaments if he can.

Courier said on ITV: “Mats is a friend of mine and I respect his opinion greatly, [but]... Andy has every right to take wildcards if they are offered, and tournaments have every right to give them to him if they want to. It is up to Andy as to how long he wants to play.

“This is all about him having the power to decide he will end his career on his terms rather than his hip deciding. And it is a remarkable story, that the doctors have given him this chance to come back. He is never going to move the way he did – he knows that.”

Murray’s former coach Alex Corretja says the Scot must be given the chance to enjoy the rest of his career without the pressure of winning grand slams, Tennishead.net adds.

“Each player has had his own experience and I respect what Mats says because that’s his experience and his own feeling,” Corretja said.

“I totally understand that Andy Murray is trying to get back to his best, I’m sure he knows it will be very difficult, but you need to give him the chance to see if he at least feels better on the court, no matter if he wins slams again or not, and try to enjoy the rest of his career.”

What next for Murray?

His crushing defeat in Paris has left Murray with much to ponder, says The Times. And the world No.111 admits that he needs a “long, hard think” about the performance.

“I should be analysing that hard and trying to understand why the performance was like that,” he said. “I need to have a long, hard think about it. It’s not for me the sort of match I would just brush aside and not give any thought to.”

Next month Murray will return to action at two indoor events in Cologne, Germany. The tournaments - from 11-18 October and 18-25 October - will both be held at the Lanxess Arena.

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Mike Starling is the digital features editor at The Week, where he writes content and edits the Arts & Life and Sport website sections and the Food & Drink and Travel newsletters. He started his career in 2001 in Gloucestershire as a sports reporter and sub-editor and has held various roles as a writer and editor at news, travel and B2B publications. He has spoken at a number of sports business conferences and also worked as a consultant creating sports travel content for tourism boards. International experience includes spells living and working in Dubai, UAE; Brisbane, Australia; and Beirut, Lebanon.