The Scot was initially unloved by the British tennis public but he changed perceptions simply by being himself
There is a story Andy Murray tells from Wimbledon in 2006. He was 19, a gangly kid on his first full season on tour and had just taken over from Tim Henman as Britain’s top-ranked tennis player. He was walking through the crowd, coming back from the practice courts, when he passed a woman talking on her mobile phone. “Oh,” she said when she saw him go by, “that Scottish wanker’s just walked past.” Murray swears like a sailor himself but the insult stung so much he can still feel it. “I was like ‘what?’” he said in an interview a decade later. “This is my home tournament. Why is this happening?”
Now that everybody is talking about how much they love Murray, it is easy to forget how little a lot of them used to like him.
It was in 2006 that he joked that he would support “anyone who England are playing” at the World Cup, a line that was spun into a story about how he had bought himself a Paraguay shirt and was planning to wear it around Wimbledon for England’s next game. It was not Murray’s fault the media were making mischief but that did not matter. “I was getting things sent to my locker saying things like: ‘I hope you lose every tennis match for the rest of your life.’”
The spotlight was pretty unforgiving and it must have seemed as if everyone watching – the public and the press – was picking at him, or on him. They called him boring. They said he was a whinger and a hypochondriac (which seems particularly absurd now when you think of the beating he has put his body through), that he spent too much time griping about his aches and pains, that he always had someone, or something, else to blame. The last Briton to win a Wimbledon singles title, Virginia Wade, called him a “drama queen” after he had three lots of physio during a match at the French Open.