SWANNY’S WORLD OF SPORT: Is Murray the best GB sportsman of all time?

Andy Murray celebrates his rise to world number one after winning the Paris Masters.

Andy Murray celebrates his rise to world number one after winning the Paris Masters.

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Arise Sir Andy Murray. I assume it will happen at the next opportunity and so it should.

Reaching world number one in a sport which has produced so few world class British players is a phenomenal achievement.

Swashbuckling cricketer Ian Botham.

Swashbuckling cricketer Ian Botham.

Some have tried to decry it by pointing to the injury problems suffered by Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, the personal demons rumoured to have affected Novak Djokovic, and the flakiness of Stan Wawrinka, but that’s rather missing the point.

World rankings in tennis reward sustained excellence of fitness as well as form and Murray’s efforts in the second-half of the season have been astonishing for a 30 year-old.

A knighthood is inevitable. If football personality Trevor Brooking can get one for being a nice bloke (and then not lose it after helping Steve McClaren become England manager), Murray should be so honoured immediately.

It’s pretty obvious Murray is the greatest active British sportsman by some distance. Better even than Ronnie O’Sullivan and George Boyd, but is he now the greatest British sportsman of all time?

Nick Faldo was a single-minded golfer.

Nick Faldo was a single-minded golfer.

The country has many sporting knights. It’s hard to argue with more than a couple of ‘sirs’.

Is Murray better than all of them? He’s in the running for sure.

I’d dismiss all cyclists and athletes from contention as there is simply too much suspicion surrounding those sports.

Sir Bobby Charlton is a worthy knight from the world of football, but he had help from others to achieve his greatness. Would he have been able to smash in so many goals from distance without the likes of George Best and Denis Law distracting opposition defenders?

Jackie Stewart is a motor racing knight.

Jackie Stewart is a motor racing knight.

Sir Nick Faldo was a golfer of determined single-mindedness, but golf tests mental strength rather than physical strength. Tennis requires both as well as a skill set capable of defusing the big servers as well as the fleet-footed base liners.

Rowing sirs Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent dedicated their early adult lives to a brutal sport, but they only had to peak once every four years to become heroes. Murray has to peak four times a year at least, more now the second tier Masters events are so lucrative.

Great Britain has provided a few motor racing legends down the years like Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart, but without wishing to dismiss their bravery in a world when the cars didn’t have more software than Concorde, it was still as much an achievement of engineering as human driving skills.

No, I can only think of one knight of the realm I’d place above Murray in a list of Great Britain’s most talented sportsmen of all-time.

Step forward Sir Ian Botham, a cricketer who has won matches in a team sport virtually single-handedly, a man with the character and the genius to come back from the ‘dead’ to transform a series against the oldest enemy, Australia, in the 1981 Ashes. The Headlingley Test match that year remains the most exciting sporting event in my lifetime.

Botham could do it all. He could bat bowl and field and he did it with the swagger of a swash-buckler.