The evolving appeal of Andy Murray
Looking a little further back from recent triumphs for one moment, I want to take you back to what surely has to be Andy Murray’s most extraordinary achievement of all time.
The year is 2013. Seismic figures popped their clogs including the Iron Lady and the saintly Nelson Mandela. Incredible things were happening across the country as a man dressed as batman became a real life sleuth, Richard III made an unlikely comeback and unbelievably Tom Daley came out as gay. It was a quite monumental year for news, but the one that topped the lot, after a wait that some thought would never end, Andy Murray triumphed in a competition … based on ‘personality’. Quite incredible!
What is maybe even more extraordinary is that Murray repeated the feat in 2015 to claim his second BBC Sports Personality Of The Year award. Now, I know that I’m in no ways alone in thinking that Andy Murray winning a personality contest is like Josef Fritzl winning a hospitality award.
It would be easy to say that whatever the achievement, Murray sounds as interested as a piss in the wind at having done so. The Scottish monotone declaration that he is “absolutely delighted” seems highly improbable at best. Millions of pounds of prize money and tournament wins coming left, right and centre it seemed nothing could awaken Murray from this dour, stroppy, England hating malaise according to popular public opinion.
However, analysing his formative years in the public spotlight, Murray was in actual fact an incredibly effervescent young talent who demonstrated an enormous amount of personality both on and off the court. On the court rackets would be flying, umpires would be berrated and he played some exhilarating tennis at times, great fun to watch! Off the court, interviews were often negotiated with a supercilious smile across his face and a wry comment in response to inane sports journalism questions.
I actually feel Murray, like so many of Britain’s young sports stars, was victim of a classic tabloid hatchet job when he was misquoted after the now infamous “l’ll support anyone who is playing England” comment in response to whether he was looking forward to watching Scotland at the 2006 Football World Cup when they hadn’t actually qualified.
It was a mis-understood joke that seemed to go on for way too many years and seemingly define his public image to forever be the ‘Scot’ instead of the ‘Brit’. Nothing summed this up more perfectly for me than one of my friends exclaiming in the 2012 Wimbledon final “Go on Roger! Teach that tartan mug a lesson!”. This seems to be changing beyond all recognition now though.
3 Grand Slam titles, 2 Olympic Singles gold medals and 1 snivelling meltdown having lost the aforementioned final of Wimbledon against the sublime Roger Federer in 2012 later, we are now most definitely in the era of Murray the ‘national treasure’. His rising popularity even managed to endure following his support for Scottish Independence on the morning of the crucial vote when he cringingly announced “Let’s do this!” on Twitter. And honestly, why the hell not?
Securing the Davis Cup for Great Britain in 2015 and again winning the Olympics for ‘Team GB’ this year show his determination and desire to achieve results for his ‘nation’ are undiminished.
He is relentlessly referred to by Davis Cup teammates as a guiding and passionate force in the team, taking time and effort with younger members in a bid to better the standing of British players in the game whilst attempting to cement a lasting sense of legacy on British Tennis.
Having unexpectedly knocked the seemingly flawless Novak Djokovic off his perch as world number one a couple of weeks ago and then defeating him in a dominant display at the ATP Tour Finals, Murray has elevated himself to be considered amongst the absolute greats of world tennis in an era totally unrivalled in its excellence.
It’s so important to recognise the unerring drive and fortitude that he has shown in order to get right to the very top of the game from a professional point of view when it seemed so unlikely. Couple this with his once so polarising public persona and the warmth with which he is now held across Britain and the world it really is incredible. He is without a shadow of a doubt our pre-eminent sportsman at the moment and should be recognised as such.
Duly doff your tam o’shanter’s accordingly.