Andy Murray has hit back at John McEnroe’s claim he is not in the same league as the rest of the ‘Big Four’ by arguing there is more to tennis than just winning grand slams.
Murray begins his grass-court season at the Aegon Championships this week where he is hoping to become a record six-time champion before the start of Wimbledon in a fortnight’s time.
The 30-year-old remains world number one but has struggled this year, slipping behind the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka in terms of form and following Novak Djokovic into an unexpected dip.
It means Federer will arguably be favourite at Wimbledon to clinch a 19th grand slam title while Nadal and Djokovic are gunning for their 16th and 13th respectively.
McEnroe told the Sunday Times that Murray, who has won three major titles, was “still a distant fourth” behind those three.
But while the Scot admits that rings true for their whole careers, he pointed to his record at the Olympics – where he has won two singles gold medals – and over the last 12 months, as evidence to the contrary.
“For me, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I’m very proud of the Olympic medals, they mean a lot to me,” Murray said at Queen’s Club on Sunday.
“Within tennis, a lot of people just go ‘oh that guy was a better player because he won more grand slams than that one or that woman was better because she won more grand slams’.
“If that’s the case then what is the point in all of us being here today? Why is everyone here covering this event? There are other tournaments outside the slams as well.”
Murray added: “If you look at the titles and everything those guys have won, I can’t compare myself to them. There’s maybe one or two things that I have done that they won’t have but for the most part I would have been fourth.
“But it’s not true of the last year because I’m ranked number one in the world. I’ve been better than them for the last 12 months, that’s how the ranking systems work.”
Murray has suggested he may only have two or three more years left challenging for major honours, despite Federer defying his age by winning the Australian Open aged 35 in January.
“It’s really hard, it’s always tough to stay at the top of any sport,” Murray said.
“I hope I stay at the top of the game for five, six, seven years but I think just because Roger’s done it doesn’t mean that’s going to happen to everyone.
Murray added: “If my body is good and I stay fit and healthy, if I still enjoy the training, the travelling, I love what I do, that’s not the issue, but you never know how you’re going to be in a couple of years physically. Right now, I feel good, but we’ll have to see how I am.”
Murray will face British number four Aljaz Bedene on Tuesday as he looks to recapture the title he won in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and last year.