LONDON -- Much was made of Andy Murray's injury-riddled turn at the French Open. His most vocal critic during the tournament was Eurosport commentator and three-time Grand Slam singles champion Virginia Wade, who labeled Murray a "drama queen" for his histrionics in a second-round match against Jarkko Nieminen. Murray looked like he could barely walk, let alone play tennis, but he managed to come back and win 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.
A sympathizer might view Murray's constant grimacing and groping of his back as a sign of genuine pain. A cynic might see his antics as an overexaggeration, a way to either fool his opposition into thinking he's more hurt than he is or a psychological attempt to relieve the pressure.
Count tour pro Tommy Haas as one who falls on the cynical side -- and, in his assessment, other players feel the same way. After advancing to the second round of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, due to Bernard Tomic's retirement, the 34-year-old Haas was asked how difficult it is to play against an injured opponent.
“It’s difficult when you play against someone on the court like he is not well or injured,” Haas told Germany’s Sport1 television. “I find no one does this better than Murray. Sometimes he looks like he can barely move, then comes the trainer and he moves like a cat. I believe everyone knows this. People talk about it in the locker room. Maybe he would like to take some pressure off himself. He tells himself, 'Maybe I have a niggle or a problem, I’m not feeling too well but I’m going to try it anyway.' But he is such a talented player that he does not need to.”
Again, a sympathizer would say Haas has a point. Murray does seem to be able to coax some inspired performances when he's been injured. But a cynic might wonder if Haas was still smarting from his 2007 loss to Murray at Indian Wells, where Murray looked to have sprained his ankle badly (see the 1:43 mark) but still rallied from a set down to win.
My only question is this: If Murray has this reputation and everyone is talking about it, then shouldn't players become completely numb to these aggravated displays of discomfort?
For his part, Murray refused to be pulled into the fray. He dismissed Haas' comments.
"Nothing to say on it. That's good. Good for him," Murray said Wednesday after his second-round loss to Nicolas Mahut at the AEGON Championships here. "The time I have been on tour I've been called many, many things. My personality not being exciting enough. I have been called boring. It was said I was unfit, lazy, fake injuries. I mean, all sorts. It's something that kind of goes hand in hand with playing sport. People criticize you regularly. You need to just deal with it. But I don't care for his opinion."