July 22, 2024
Andy Murray

As the sibling of a professional tennis player, much of my childhood was spent mooching around various tennis courts killing time, in particular the National Tennis Centre in south-west London. On one of these occasions I was knocking balls about and waiting for my brother, a certain Sir Andy Murray walked past, and up to the door of one of the meeting rooms. Knocking and waiting patiently outside the door, he then said to the starstruck room, “Hi everyone, I’m so sorry to interrupt, I’m Andy — could I sit down?”

It was a fleeting moment, and one that Murray has almost certainly forgotten. But for me, as a young fan, it remained etched in my mind as even more reason to support him — because he seemed like a genuinely nice person.

As the tributes to one of Britain’s greatest athletes flooded in this week after Murray waved goodbye to a teary-eyed Wimbledon Centre Court for the very last time on Thursday, much of the focus has been on this somewhat unlikely aspect of Murray’s legacy — his impact off the court.

When he first appeared on the scene two decades ago, Murray was often branded by the press and tennis fans as grumpy, rude, or even just devoid of personality. Some of this was undoubtedly driven by the fact that he was proudly Scottish — when, after a journalist asked him which team he’d be supporting at the 2006 World Cup, and he replied, “Whoever England are playing”, it was seen as particularly indicative of this refusal to co-operate with the very English, upper middle class tennis establishment.

In time, he quietly proved the public and the media wrong. Against all odds he won Wimbledon twice, despite the fiercest opposition in the open era

And then there was the weight of that expectation. By the time Murray became Wimbledon champion for the first time in 2013, no British man had won the tournament for 77 years. The attempts it took him to win a slam were unfairly painted as a frustrating disappointment, despite the fact that he happened to be playing at the same time as arguably the other greatest three tennis players to ever grace the court — Federer, Djokovic and Nadal.

But in time, he quietly proved the public and the media wrong. Against all odds he won Wimbledon twice, despite the fiercest opposition in the open era. He was world number one for almost a year, won two Olympic gold medals and reached 11 major finals. In short, he was dealt a very tricky hand, which he played magnificently.

Off the court, much has been said about the tireless way in which he advocated for women’s tennis over the years, but it all bears repeating. Many will have seen the now-infamous moment from a 2017 interview in which Murray corrected a journalist who said Sam Querrey was the first American to reach a grand slam semi-final since 2009. “Male player,” Murray said, highlighting the blindingly obvious fact that Serena Williams had won more than her fair share of titles at SW19 in that period. And how many know about how he has argued for equal pay in tennis, and that in 2014 he became only the second ever player on the men’s tour to hire a female tennis coach, and refused to listen to those who later blamed her for his losses?

I hope it is some comfort that he will leave the sport he loves with it loving him right back. Put your feet up, Andy. You deserve it.

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