Andy Murray: A tennis great but an even better human being

By Alasdair Hooper

Wimbledon 2013. Millions of people were watching Andy Murray try to end Britain’s 77-year wait for a men’s champion.

The year before he had come agonisingly close but fell to Roger Federer in the final.

This time around it was Novak Djokovic that lay between him and glory and the public were understandably glued to their TV’s.

Except me, because I was stuck at an airport in Rome waiting for a flight that had been delayed for three hours.

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I – like many others unable to watch – was frantically refreshing the BBC Sport live feed in the departure lounge but when it came time to board it was just after Murray had won the second set.

After the plane touched down back in London it was the first thing we looked for once we had internet connectivity again.

He’d done it. A 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 win over Djokovic had ended Britain’s long wait for a Wimbledon Champion.

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As soon as we were home it was straight to the highlights and there was an obsession with watching that Championship point over and over again.

The clip still has a goosebumps feel about it.

An icon of British tennis

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This is what Murray has done for British tennis – for many he turned the sport into far more than a tournament we watched for two weeks during the summer.

He gave it emotion, class and drew people into being invested in tennis – myself included – like never before.

Following his emotional press conference at the Australian Open, where he admitted he might not make it to Wimbledon 2018 because of the pain in his hip, everyone is rightly reflecting on what he has achieved.

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His record speaks for itself, even though he has been playing in arguably the toughest men’s era with three of the absolute greats – namely Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

He has won three Grand Slam titles (the 2012 US Open and Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016), he won the 2016 ATP World Tour Finals, he became world number one, he won Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016, he led Britain to its first Davis Cup since 1936 in 2015 and he won BBC Sports Personality of the Year on three separate occasions.

There is no doubt that as a sportsman he is one of the best Britain has ever had.

Murray the man

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Andy Murray’s personality has always been a hot topic of debate and in his younger days he wasn’t always popular.

But the moment he broke down in front of the Wimbledon crowd in 2012, after losing in the final to Federer, you sensed that was the wider turning point for his public perception.

Suddenly people appreciated him for exactly who he is, a truly awesome person.

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Murray isn’t afraid to show his emotion, we’ve seen it on several occasions, and his news conference earlier today was no exception.

It might not seem like much but it’s a big thing in combatting the prehistoric opinions that still linger, where remarks of “man up” and “stop blubbing” are continuously banded about.

But what Murray will arguably be most remembered for is his “casual feminism” and speaking up for women’s athletes wherever he can.

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He has used his platform on numerous occasions to spark conversations and push the issue of equality.

He was the first major male player to hire a female coach in Amelie Mauresmo, a move that you suspect has really helped to fine tune his actions in promoting women’s sport.

People will always remember when he corrected an American journalist who said that Sam Querrey was the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009.

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Murray responded casually with “male player.”

When the 31-year-old was interviewed by John Inverdale in 2016, after winning his second Olympic gold medal in Rio, the TV presenter told Murray he was the first player to win two Olympic golds.

Murray instead said: “To defend the singles title. I think Venus and Serena have won about four each.”

Understated humour

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In addition to his efforts to push gender equality what is arguably Murray’s most likeable feature is his dry wit.

One particular highlight was when he joked during his 2015 SPOTY acceptance speech that he had read an article saying he was “duller than a weekend in Worthing”.

He continued to say that he thought “it was a bit harsh on Worthing.”

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There was also that time he dropped a commemorative plate and smashed it shortly after being presented with it.

Additionally, social media goers will immediately tell you that Murray is great fun with his Instagram account a particular highlight.

Honestly if you want some laughs go and pay it a visit.

The tennis may be at an end but there’s more to come

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Ever since Murray sustained his hip injury you got the feeling this might be something big.

As the days and months rolled on you could sense – but you didn’t want to believe – that it might finish his playing career.

With the pain becoming too much it has sadly transpired that way and seeing Murray’s playing career cut short is painful to see.

But that doesn’t have to be it.

While Murray’s days on court may be coming to an end there is still so much to come from the man.

As this piece highlights, along with the numerous other tribute articles released today, ‘Murray the tennis player’ is just a small part of the 31-year-old.

He was a truly phenomenal player but he’s an even better person – and that’s not changing any time soon.

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