Warming to Andy Murray

July 8, 2012 § 4 Comments

Let me begin by saying I am not an Andy Murray fan. When it comes to tennis by heart belongs to Rafael Nadal. Completely.

With his surly temperament and his reluctance to smile I’ve found it difficult to warm to the man from Dunblane.

So, while I planned to watch this year’s Men’s Wimbledon Final, without Rafa, I wasn’t expecting to get up early and queue for ground tickets. I just didn’t see the point. But when fate (well, a lovely friend, actually) presented me with the opportunity to go for free my tennis-obsessed mind couldn’t refuse. So I went.

I had all intention of watching the match absentmindedly, with distance and no emotion. However, the crowd on Henman Hill (or should it be Murray Mound?) had other ideas. I’ve attended Wimbledon three years running and never have I experienced such a partisan crowd.

Wearing their eye-patches

With Murray being the first British man to make the finals here for 74 years, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised the bias that came from the crowd. From the moment the Scot first appeared on the big screen each person on that hill clapped, whistled and shouted words of encouragement.

Every point that went in Murray’s favour was met with a roar of approval, Federer’s with stony silence. Rules of tennis etiquette were cast aside: double faults and wrongly called Hawkeye challenges were cheered.

And at some point during the match I found myself cheering and encouraging, my heart pounding and my stomach tightening. What was this? For no player, other than Nadal, had I experienced this kind of emotional impact. It says a lot for pack mentality.

It seemed my heart was thawing just a little towards this Scotsman. And it truly began to melt when after fighting for more than three hours, over four sets, Murray succumbed to the brilliant (I admit this with reluctance – Nadal fan, remember) Roger Federer. His fourth Grand Slam final defeat, but this time at least he managed to bag himself a set.

The real Andy Murray

Then we got to see the real Andy Murray. It may sound slightly sadistic, perhaps callous, but I was pleased to see Murray display true emotion as he took the microphone to give his runners-up speech, lump in his throat, words catching and tears flowing.

“I’m going to try this and it’s not going to be easy,” he choked out.

I felt his pain and I empathised with him. It’s something I honestly thought I’d never do. But to see how much this tournament meant to him, to see how hurt he was, to abandon the British ‘stiff upper lip’ and ‘don’t show your emotions in public’ mentality, well, only an ice-queen could remain frozen.

Gracious in his loss he congratulated Federer, and thanked the fans for their unwavering support.

“Everyone talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon, but it’s not the people  – they make is so much easier to play. The support has been incredible.”

Before today I never though I’d brace torrential rain and scorching sunburn for anyone but Nadal. It seems that finally, Murray has made his way into my heart. Just a little.

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