Andy Murray battled into the Wimbledon third round on Wednesday and then turned his fire on the British government, blasting as “pathetic” the pay offer to key workers fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
All week at the All England Club, nurses, health staff as well as the developers of coronavirus vaccines have been honoured in the Royal Box on Centre Court.
But the government has been criticised for claiming they can only afford to pay a 1% increase in salaries to staff who labour in the country’s National Health Service.
“I think what is it, they got something like a 1% pay rise? It was pathetic,” said Murray.
“They obviously deserve a lot more than that, and, yeah, they have done an amazing job getting us through the pandemic.”
The pandemic resulted in the cancellation of Wimbledon in 2020.
When Murray played his first round match on Monday he watched as Centre Court gave a standing ovation to health workers sitting in the Royal Box.
“I think the whole country kind of realised how important they all are, and maybe hadn’t got the recognition that they probably deserve up until now,” added the 34-year-old former world number one.
“So, yeah, it’s fantastic that they have been able to come along and watch some of the tennis.
“Hopefully the politicians can realise that they deserve more than what they are getting paid just now.”
‘It was a tough a match’
Murray was speaking after he had come back from a two sets to one deficit to defeat German qualifier Oscar Otte.
The 2013 and 2016 champion triumphed 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 over the 151st-ranked Otte under the roof of Centre Court.
The British star, playing in the singles event for the first time since 2017 and ranked a lowly 118 after a battle against hip and groin injuries, avoided what would have been his earliest exit from the tournament.
He hit 55 winners as he wrapped up a place in the third round for a 13th consecutive time.
“What an atmosphere to play in at the end,” said Murray.
“I needed everyone’s help tonight. I did a great job, played some top shots at the end but it was a tough match.”
He will face Canadian 10th seed Denis Shapovalov for a place in the last 16.
“I’m obviously tired. I fell over a couple of times, the court is pretty slick,” added Murray after almost four hours on court.
“Considering everything, I feel alright. The hip’s still good. It’s a rest day tomorrow and hopefully I can come out and perform well.”
An exhausted Otte had played Monday and Tuesday to see off fellow qualifier Arthur Rinderknech with that match decided by a final set tie-breaker, 13-12.
His challenge fizzled out after the roof was closed at 2-2 in the fourth set.
However, the 27-year-old was overjoyed at the opportunity to play against the former world number one.
“I told him he’s my icon,” said Otte of the conversation he had at the net with Murray.
“For me, he’s the best ever. I just enjoyed to play against him.”