Scale of Murray’s achievement hidden by his even temperament
Scot’s rise to close to the top of tennis world an amazing feat
There are complicated questions and more straightforward questions. The geopolitical significance of whether Kim Jong-un is getting laid too much, or not often enough, is diplomatic algebra right now.
Why the Premier League should be disdained as sub-par crap by the RTÉ panel on Champions League nights, and transformed into a quality benchmark on those international dates when Trapattoni gets a kicking, clearly isn’t.
And then there are questions that trek that happy middle-ground between Euclid and D’oh. Interesting queries, fascinating even, in their own way. Like who decided Tubridy and telly are a fit? How do accountants reproduce? Or Michael Ring – discuss?
And in sporting terms, I suspect the most fascinating question of 2013 is likely to revolve around Andy Murray’s surly, curly head, and the desire within it to reach the World No.1 spot.
With time, it’s got so much easier to warm to Murray, enough to make one a little anxious about those Baywatch pictures on the back of the Scot’s recent Miami triumph, where he was snapped frolicking in the sea, bare-chested and buff, enjoying a private moment in front of a carefully monitored platoon of agency photographers.
Not so long ago, it was impossible to imagine Murray doing anything like that. Examples of a naturally taciturn young man indulging in such clichéd tabloid image-building were non-existent. .
Instead, in a digital era of split-second news, and a seemingly never-ending procession of ‘slebs’ willing to swap gynaecologically intimate information in return for profile, Murray always stood out as someone admirably disinterested in what people think of him.
In fact contrary to the English tabloids’ attempt to portray him as a clichéd chippy Scot with a bad haircut, there remains something resolutely normal about Murray, something all the more remarkable considering the abnormal scale of his achievements.
When he gets angry on-court, he swears – well, I never – and with a venomous rage that anyone who’s ever had to try and wave down a Glasgow taxi at two in the morning will recognise only too well.
Then there’s that thatch, which only a mother could cut, and a mumbling interview style which might not be media catnip but which is all the more refreshing considering the scale of fluent “play-every-point-on-its-merits-for-sure” crappola that spouts from most of his opposition. There are even occasional forays into elegance.
“I can cry like Roger, just a shame I can’t play like him,” was a gem of succinct grace under the pressure of having just lost a Wimbledon final to Federer.
But now: trashy beach shots? Getting the kit off for the snappers? OK, if it was Sharapova splashing in the spume, there would be no gripe, but this is Murray.
Djokovic is always baring his patriotic Serbian bosom to the masses, and behind the doe-eyed, “och-sure-I’m-not-that-good-at-all-really” schtick he goes on with, Nadal can posture like a prima-donna. But now Murray is showing off his tan too, albeit a very blue Scottish one.
What’s going on? Is Simon Fuller, the musical anti-Christ that is also Murray’s agent, trying to add some American Idol sheen to his Caledonian client?
God, I hope not. Murray will be 26 next month, a tennis player’s peak. He is now ensconced in the No.2 world ranking. Only Djokovic is ahead of him and if momentum counts for anything, at some stage this year, the Serb and the Scot will switch.
Even with a US Open and an Olympic Gold already in his pocket, getting to No 1 in the world in the era of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will be Murray’s crowning glory and an achievement the scale of which probably isn’t even close to being properly appreciated by most of us.
Maybe Murray’s comparatively low-profile doesn’t help in that regard. But the scale of his achievement is still astounding. We’re talking about a lowland Scot here, hardly a part of the world synonymous with tennis, and from an island, that contrary to its delusions of grandeur, mostly sustained by possession of its own Grand Slam event, hadn’t had a male Major champion for eight decades.
Expectation has brought its own pressures, but pressures that pale alongside the legacy of surviving a cruel inadequate who shattered so many lives at the Dunblane shooting, an appalling episode which the young Murray witnessed while cowering in a classroom.
The mental resolve subsequently required to transform his teenage life by immersing himself in a new culture in Spain indicated a rare individual who has also had to overcome the residual effects of a genetically wonky knee, not to mention the crushing disappointments of a succession of Grand Slam final defeats.
But here he is: a potty-mouthed, red-headed hot-shot from our cold, rainy latitude who from the looks of it doesn’t indulge in much pot-noodle anymore but knows what it is, kneels at the altar of Match of the Day , recognises Emmerdale , tans like an Eskimo and swears like a trooper: and also just happens to be on the verge of becoming the top-ranked tennis player in the world. How incredibly cool is that.
It’s probably stupid to fear for the resolve of someone who’s overcome so much already.
But even so; note to Simon Fuller – leave Murray alone. Keep the photo-shoots to Botox Spice. There must be other markets to exploit. Have you considered Pyongyang?