He once outranked Andy Murray and wrote off Novak Djokovic but David Brewer has no regrets
It may seem hard to believe, but there was once life in Scottish tennis before Andy Murray
Turn the clock back a decade and the 26-year-old was accompanied by a number of other Scottish boys who were working their way through the ranks, including Jamie Murray, Jamie Baker and Colin Fleming.
Setting the pace, though, was David Brewer. In 2003, the Paisley player was ranked inside the world's top 10 in juniors and, for a time, was the standard-bearer for those coming behind, including Murray, who was two years younger.
In 2003, Brewer, Murray and Baker were all playing in a prestigious tournament in Milan and, as the No.2 seed, Brewer expected to go far, having drawn an unknown opponent in the first round. Novak Djokovic. "I remember it very well," Brewer told Herald Sport yesterday. "I was seeded quite high and Djokovic was just up and coming at the time. I remember asking Andy, 'have you ever heard of this kid?', because I knew they were the same age, and he said, 'he's pretty good; you'll have to be careful'. I did lose in the end."
Brewer later played doubles with Murray at junior Wimbledon but on Sunday was willing his compatriot to glory against Djokovic in the final. "I was watching the highlights later and thinking: 'has he actually won this?'," Brewer said. "I knew the score and I knew everything that had happened but I was thinking, 'I've got to re-watch this. Am I seeing this right?' It was incredible. The last game, at 40-0, I was thinking 'home and dry, one more serve and that's it'. Then it goes back to deuce and break points . . . that just shows the character of the guy.
"Anyone else would have just crumbled or double-faulted, with all these things going through your brain. He just kept on fighting, trying to get over the finish line and, like he said, played the game of his life to win. That's the character he is, he never folds. You don't win Wimbledon unless you've got that in your locker and he's got loads of it."
Murray was inundated with voicemails and texts within hours of his win, including one from Brewer. "I sent him a text and got in touch with him through Facebook and sent his mum a message too," he said.
"It's fantastic for Andy but it's also fantastic for the whole family and his team, his mum. They've gone through a lot of tough times; seeing him lose last year in the final, that hits the whole family hard as well. The whole package he has right now – the team and his family around him – they all deserve massive credit and I am sure they're on cloud nine."
As the leading lights for Scottish tennis in their teens, the boys often travelled together so Brewer knew Murray well, long before the world realised just how good he was. "I remember him being hugely competitive from a very young age," he said. "If we played cards or football it was competitive. He hated losing. When you're young, you don't realise how good you are as players. But if it was stepping on a plane, he had to be the one stepping on the plane first."
When Jamie Baker announced his retirement last month, he recalled a moment when he was training with Murray in Florida a couple of years ago and took a moment to consider what he put his body through. "I thought, 'how did you get this good?'," Baker recalled.
"That is how it feels," Brewer agreed. "I remember bumping into him at Roehampton a couple of years ago and I went over and said hello. He was huge. Now he is a massive slab of a man. All those changes he's gone through and the effort he's made, tennis-wise and off the court as well: it's incredible.
"It was kind of surreal watching him win Wimbledon but I'm also not surprised because I know how good he is and how hard he's trained. He absolutely deserves to be there. But it is a bit surreal, reading through all the papers on Monday and he's on the front and back page of every paper. He's gone to another level which I never even dreamed of and I'm sure he didn't either."
Now 28, Brewer, who has just returned from a spell coaching in Qatar for their national federation, insists he never had Murray's talent and does not worry himself with "what ifs". Though the pair's paths have been very different of late, Brewer said Murray is still the same as when he was a 10-year-old.
"Whenever I've bumped into him, like at Roehampton, he's still the same guy, you go over to him and he's still cracking jokes," he said. "He's a very witty guy and he's taking the mickey out of me before I've even sat down. He'll never change. He's a great person to be around and for all of the success he'd had and will have in the future, none of it goes to his head. He's still the same down to earth guy. That's what I've always liked about him."