Tue 18 Jun 2013 Updated 9 mins ago
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Aegon Championships 2013: Andy Murray goes from misanthrope to crowd's darling
By Oliver Brown, Queen’s Club12:01AM BST 17 Jun 2013
Suddenly we could herald a seminal moment in the humanising of Andy Murray.
As he conveyed with quavering emotion the cancer ordeal of Ross Hutchins, all the while absorbing the afterglow of his third Queen’s Club triumph, he transformed in front of our eyes from the surly tartan misanthrope to the model of compassionate benevolence, even blowing a kiss to his confrere in the crowd.
Hutchins responded in kind, embracing Murray with a palpable warmth as the Scot walked off Centre Court, ready to return for a charity hit-and-giggle against coach Ivan Lendl on his close friend’s behalf.
He even implored the 7,000-strong crowd to stay for the gentle japes that ensued in the soft summer haze. Tellingly, almost all of them did.
Murray has been struggling to beguile a dubious British public for the best part of a decade but at last, three Sundays before what could bring his maiden Wimbledon coronation, a connection between actor and audience was forged.
Call it the Sue Barker effect. The ever-empathetic matron of our screens had also elicited Murray's tears after his vanquishing by Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, when he took her microphone to say, voice rising several octaves on the last syllable: “Right, I’m going to try this, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Something about the sight of Barker’s blonde tresses bouncing onto court is guaranteed to reduce him to helpless soppiness.
By dusk, it felt almost like Murray tribute day in West Kensington. The ladies purred indulgently over his touching victory speech, following this 2½-hour dismantling of Marin Cilic, while mother Judy marked the all-star charity match by trilling on Twitter about the physique of Tomas Berdych.
Even the eclectic assortment of star guests, from Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, to preening comedian Michael McIntyre, behaved with puppyish enthusiasm in the company of the triple Queen’s champion.
It helped that Murray, fresh from his dispatch of Cilic, faced off in the celebrity exhibition match with Tim Henman, still adored in this postcode for his three final appearances and, of course, his impeccable Oxfordshire breeding.
Murray has fought his entire career to claim even a fraction of the upper middle-class hysteria once accorded to Henman but, as the fans cheered an announcement last night that he would be handing his tournament winnings to the Royal Marsden hospital, that acclaim seemed to be his due.
The match itself offered a more nuanced picture. As befitted a Wimbledon dress rehearsal, this was our chance to see Murray in all his disparate guises, from grass court artist to raging hypochondriac.
Ultimately, his subduing of Cilic was straightforward enough as the superlative quality of his first serve and backhand drives began to tell. But the narrative, peppered with strange drama, was quintessential Murray.
Gasps resounded the arena when, with a yelp of anguish late in the first set, he fell to the ground in the fetal position. Had he suffered a groin injury? Had his back, only just nursed back to health, given way? Was his Wimbledon over before it even began? As it transpired, none of the above. With a few winces and a little ginger stretching he was at full-bore again, forcing Cilic from one side of the court from the other.
There was the odd tantrum, but his former detractors were content to forgive a Grand Slam champion such lapses. Match point duly sealed, he turned to the galleries with a luminous smile. He once identified his favourite stage as the US Open, prizing the raucousness of Arthur Ashe Stadium above the garden party refinement of SW19, but Murray looked curiously at ease here among the gin-and-Jag set.
His heartfelt words for Hutchins, whom he described as “so brave”, cemented the bond. Murray said famously of Federer in Australia in 2010: “I can cry like Roger, it’s a pity I can’t play like him, too.”
Now that he can do both, the affection flowing from his home support towards the world No.2 is in full spate.
At 25, Murray can still be a character of many brittle edges but on this day, perhaps, Britain finally learnt to love his more tender, lachrymose side.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/andymurray/10124049/Aegon-Championships-2013-Andy-Murray-goes-from-misanthrope-to-crowds-darling.html