From the Times article
Wimbledon champion tells Robert Crampton of relief that spotlight on him has faded . . .albeit only slightly
Andy Murray eases himself into the back of a Mercedes in the car park at the Queen’s Club, West London, and the big saloon pulls smoothly away. He is wearing a grey tracksuit, pinned to the front of which, rather incongruously, is a remembrance poppy.
He spends a little while getting comfortable — it has been six weeks since surgery on his back brought an end to his season. Rehab is well under way, but he hasn’t actually hit any tennis balls yet and won’t for another week or so. He’s still got to be careful, even for a short drive such as this one to his home in Cobham, Surrey. The length of the journey will determine the length of our interview. Turns out it takes about half an hour.
Murray has got a book out. It’s not an autobiography — “I did one when I was about 20 and it’s a big regret, I was way too young” — but an account of the year or so leading up to his victory at Wimbledon in July. It’s called Seventy Seven, a reference to the number of years, before Murray, since a British man had won the singles in SW19. I ask, fully expecting him to say “no”, if the “77 years” issue had weighed on him.
“Yes,” he says, with a surprising degree of feeling for a man who is otherwise so calm and collected, “because I got reminded about it all the time. It had become part of my life. I probably do almost 100 press conferences a year, and in half of them I’d get asked the 77 years question. The pressure builds. You get frustrated.” And he still isn’t free of it. For the past four months, he says, he’s been asked constantly whether it’s a relief not to be asked constantly about the 77-year gap.
The actual match — particularly the final game — is a bit of a blur, he admits. Asked to relive his emotions for his book, he struggled. “Explaining emotions in public is quite difficult. It’d be easy to make something up and just lie. Remembering it accurately is tiring.” Also, at the time, he was presumably concentrating on not having any emotions? “That’s the thing. It’s the final at Wimbledon.” He recalls climbing up to the players’ box to hug his friends, family and coaches — while forgetting, famously, to embrace his mum. Did she give him a hard time afterwards? “No,” he laughs. “She was fine.”
The immediate aftermath of victory was, for four or five days, “actually quite overwhelming. A bit of a shock. Photographers everywhere. I thought then maybe my life was going to change drastically.” He didn’t much relish the extra acclaim and attention. “You just want to enjoy it with friends and family and you can’t. It’s a bit of a shame but it’s part of the job,” he says.
Then he went off on holiday to the Bahamas with his girlfriend, Kim Sears, and was able to reflect on his achievement. “You go through different feelings,” he says. “What stands out the most is the thought that all the work you’ve put in was actually worth it. I had lost a lot of really big matches in the past. When I’d lost in the final the year before, I started doubting whether it was all worth it. The last 12 months suggests it was worth persevering.”
When he got back from holiday, he was much relieved that press interest had died down. “Back to normal,” he says. Sears, he says, “handled the spotlight very well. She’s got used to that focus on our personal life at that time of year. A lot of people became interested in whether we were going to get married or not.” He didn’t enlighten them then — nor will he now.
Murray is 26. Having joined the professional tour when he was 18, he’s now a little over halfway through his career. He judged it a good time to sort his back out and have a break. “I’d had problems off and on for about 20 months. All the things I like doing away from the court — football, go-karting, golf — I wasn’t able to do because I was always having physio, and my back wasn’t getting any better.”
For two weeks after the surgery, he wasn’t allowed to sit up. “That was pretty boring, but now I’m doing things I haven’t done before, like working on a treadmill under water. It’s a new experience, quite fun.” He’s training at Chelsea’s complex near his home in Cobham, José Mourinho having extended an invitation. Next week, he flies to his home in Miami for pre-
season. A comeback at the Australian Open in January is “realistic”, but “with stuff like this if you aren’t ready you re-injure yourself.”
Three months a year in Cobham, three months in Miami, the rest on the road — that’s Murray’s life. Plus a few days back home in Scotland over Christmas. It’s a relentless schedule of planes and training and hotels, but it’s all he’s known in his adult life, and he knows he has perhaps only another five years at the top. “Twenty-five, 26, 27, that’s when you’re at your peak physically.” Even now, he says, his body hurts after a long match in a way it didn’t a few years ago. “But I’m also stronger than I was then, so it’s a balance.”
We’ve left London . The streets are getting seriously leafy. Not long left. I mention Ivan Lendl, the former great whose arrival as Murray’s coach 18 months ago coincided with the long-delayed fulfilment of the Scot’s potential. Murray has won two grand slam tournaments. Lendl won eight. “Oh I wouldn’t expect to win eight,” Murray says, seeing where the conversation is heading. “The position I’m in, having had surgery, I’d be happy just winning another one. It’s hard to win. It took me seven years to win my first one.”
Partly that is explained by the unusually (some experts would say uniquely) high quality of the opposition, in the form of the three all-time greats: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. “People always say, ‘Oh, in a different era you would have won more.’ But because of those guys I’ve become a much better tennis player, trying to find ways to win against them.”
He gets on well with all his rivals. “I’ve known Novak since I was 11, Rafa since I was 13. I like Roger. I have their phone numbers, I speak to them, message them occasionally, but it’s very difficult to be best friends when you’re playing each other,” he says. “When we finish playing I would hope I would be able to go out for dinner with them, just chat. I hope when we all finish everyone can get on. I think we’ll see this has been a great era in men’s tennis. I’ll be happy to have been a small part of that.”
The car draws up at a barrier guarding an imposing private housing estate. Andy Murray says his goodbyes and saunters inside.