The real miracle of Andy Murray as Wimbledon bow out is act of mercy from a legend with nothing left to prove - Keith Jackson

Andy Murray is in a race against time to be fit for Wimbledon
-Credit: (Image: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

As painful as it was, Andy Murray’s decision to throw in the towel on one last singles at Wimbledon also felt like an act of mercy.

Truth is, there is no more joy to be had out of watching Scotland’s greatest sportsman battle against the aches and limitations of his own body in the pursuit of delivering one last miracle. The likelihood of which has been becoming ever more remote ever since he first dragged his metal hip off the surgeon’s table.

There has been nothing to be savoured from seeing this national treasure hurple from one tournament to the next and being routinely dismissed by players who possess a fraction of his talent. It has been excruciating and not just for Murray who has winced his way from one setback to the next while enduring varying degrees of physical distress. The romantic notion of one last dance on the greatest grass stage of them all this summer did tug at the heartstrings for as long as it seemed even remotely feasible.

As did the irresistible thought that, against all odds, Murray might be able to muster up one last superhuman effort to bow out like the champion he is. That’s probably why he left it so long before finally accepting that his body simply could not withstand the demands of another gruelling five-set battle.

That, rather than peaking one last time before his adoring fans on centre court, he was more likely to find himself being trampled down once more, surrounded by wellwishers attempting to avert their gaze from the cruelty of his own suffering. All of which would have been a horrible and awkward curtain call for a man who ought to be remembered as the Murray who operated at the very height of his powers – when he was taking on the greatest players who ever picked up a racquet and defeating them in turns.

Perhaps Murray was helped to make his own mind up on Monday night as he watched Cristiano Ronaldo exhaust the residual fumes of his own self-awareness, by allowing his bottom lip to tremble after missing a penalty for Portugal against Slovakia – with 15 minutes still to be played.

It’s hard to recall a single more unedifying sight at any major sports tournament than Ronaldo’s teary-eyed, self-pitying histrionics. Manager Roberto Martinez claimed it was a man displaying the full extent of his passion for the game and the country he loves. Martinez may have been well-meaning but he was also misguided.

This was a grotesque outpouring of the depth of Ronaldo’s love for no one and nothing other than himself. That his team-mates and manager have felt forced to pander to his gargantuan ego for so long, has done nothing more than enable Ronaldo’s overblown sense of entitlement.

When the 39-year-old began to bubble Martinez should have warned him to get his head back in the game with immediate effect or invited him to sit the rest of the match out from the bench. For the sake of his own reputation if nothing else.

Murray is an avid football follower and it is not beyond the realms of possibility his toes were curling too as he watched Ronaldo make such a spectacle of himself from somewhere near the grounds of SW19. Perhaps the thought occurred that he could not be the cause of similar rubber-necking the following day, when due to face Czech Tomas Machac.

The fierce competitor within may have been trying to convince him that anything might still be possible right up until the final moment. That if only he could find a way through the first round, little more than a week after undergoing surgery to remove a spinal cyst, then he might find the inner strength to make one last miraculous set of events transpire over the course of the next two weeks. But Murray would have been fooling only himself and maybe even risking his own long-term health and mobility all in the name of satisfying his own stubborn refusal to call time on a glorious and glittering career.

There is, after all, absolutely nothing left for him to prove. At a moment in time when Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were each bringing their respective A game on tour, Murray climbed above all three to claim the ranking of the best player in the world.

That the Scot bagged two Wimbledon titles, a US Open and two Olympic Golds during this unsurpassed period in the sport, is the shimmering, permanent testament to the greatness of his talents. That he effectively had to break his own body in order to make it all happen is indicative of the depth of his desire and the impeccability of his professionalism.

Cristiano Ronaldo was in tears after Portugal missed penalty
Cristiano Ronaldo was in tears after Portugal missed penalty

Murray moved mountains in order to compete against them and for a fleeting while he managed to eclipse them. That’s the real miracle of Andy Murray. That’s the vast scale of the legacy he leaves behind.

To extend the footballing analogy, what he has achieved out there on his own would be akin to Scotland winning two World Cups and a European Championships. In other words, he made the impossible a reality through the sheer depth of his own determination coupled with the brilliance and the magic contained inside his own hands.

And yesterday the 37-year-old spared us all from the ignominy of watching him be beaten up by another run-of-the-mill opponent just because the guy on the other side of the net happens to be younger, faster and stronger. The most likely truth is, there will never be another Scottish sportsman of such stature and global significance. The lucky ones were those of us who got to see him in his prime.

So don’t be sad because it’s over – be happy because it happened at all.