What Andy Murray Knows

Andy Murray is a Wimbledon champion, but we can only guess at what it was he figured out to get there. Which is as it should be.
Share |

Andy Murray is at worst the third-best human in the world at his job, which was difficult to remember after the first two sets of the Wimbledon quarterfinal, both of which he dropped—and it was Murray who dropped them, with bad misses and questionable decision-making—to the implausibly in control Fernando Verdasco, who was then ranked 54th in the world. At that moment, Murray looked, more than anything, emotionally disturbed. Here he is sitting on the sideline and shouting at someone; the official or maybe his opponent, but upon further examination actually at himself, an impassioned one-sided argument in which he play-acts both a father and the son he’s yelling at for being such a goddamn disappointment. He repeatedly and sarcastically asks himself, “What are you doing?” bundled with a bunch of NSF-TV words. It’s a big performance; if it were in a movie, critics might say that he’s overdoing it somewhat.

Murray, it’s worth noting, isn’t some started-from-the-bottom-now-we-here upstart who’s still learning to handle his shit. He’s Andy Murray, Olympic gold medalist, 2013 U.S. Open winner, finalist at the last five major tennis events he’s played—he skipped this year’s French Open because of injury—ranked second in the world and, to reiterate, no worse than third in the true rankings. And here he is, acting like an overworked high school junior denigrating himself for missing a question in the math section of the SATs, right there in front of thousands of fans and millions of people watching at home, all of them paying very acute and loaded attention to him. Murray is right there, and either unable or unwilling to bury his mental interior below the surface. 

We can only read so much into the psyche of an athlete—or really, anyone—because low-level telepathy is not yet a human mutation, but also because of how our experience of those athletes is mediated. We only catch any individual player in any team sport a fraction of the time, most likely when the man at the boards has been directed by some sweat-stained executive producer to specifically cut to Tim Tebow right as he seems to be sighing at how shitty Mark Sanchez is. 

As grounds for character judgment, that seems categorically unfair. The only athlete we can totally understand through those brief glimpses is Kobe Bryant, since it’s usually a fair assumption that he’s thinking about murdering someone. But there’s so much more to go off in tennis, where the camera is trained on each player at pretty much all times—not enough to justify patronizing, rosary clutching columns on why Rafael Nadal isn’t a TRUE WINNER because he has been known to smile during matches, but enough to get a fair idea of the particular ways in which the top players sublimate their feelings through behavioral tics, play tactics, in-game rituals and so on. It’s not a portrait, but it’s a very detailed sketch. 

I won’t connect the dots, but consider the following: the way Roger Federer cruises on gentlemanly neutral until he’s clearly winning or losing, at which point he begins shouting and fist pumping like someone no longer capable of hiding the fact that he’s drunk; the way Novak Djokovic leisurely smirks to himself after a bad break, already plotting his revenge; the way Juan Martin Del Potro leisurely treats the court like a stage, winning over the crowd and the opponent with his wistful, exasperated glances and gesticulation; the way Serena Williams looks like she is so totally over it, all the time.

Or consider the way that Murray is having it out with himself before collecting his bearings and crushing Verdasco in the next two sets to even things up, and then eventually toughing it out in the final set to advance to the semifinal, itself the preview for his eventual Wimbledon victory, making him (as you might have heard) the first British man to do so since before the second World War. From inexplicable, self-berating failure to steely glory: it’s the Andy Murray experience, summed up in a few days. 

***

Some background information on Andrew Barron Murray: He was born on May 15, 1987 in Glasglow, Scotland, which has led to some territorial pissing over the question of whether he counts as British or Scottish. The latter seem to feel that the English only want to claim him when he wins, and are content to pass him off as just another dreary Scot otherwise. His mother is Judith Murray, a former women’s player herself who trained him and brother Jamie from an early age, leading to predictable accusations of being a mama’s boy. He made his first Grand Slam final at the age of 20, playing Roger Federer in the 2008 U.S. Open, but lost in straight sets; he made two more finals over the next few years and dropped them in straight sets, too, before finally taking the first set of the 2012 Wimbledon final, also against Federer, and... losing the next three, leading to a teary runner’s up speech in which he swore he was getting closer to the next level. 

Close, indeed. A few weeks later, he absolutely smushed Federer in the gold medal match of the London Olympics, which was held on the same Wimbledon Centre Court on which he’d just lost. After that, Murray beat Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open to finally capture his first Grand Slam title, a breakthrough widely attributed to the influence of Ivan Lendl, the former champion he’d hired as coach before the 2012 season, and who’d also lost his first four Grand Slam appearances before winning nine titles and so presumably had a thing or two to teach about perseverance in the face of a media and fan-base constantly asking when you’re going to stop being such a miserable loser-ass failure. (Sidebar: Win or lose, Lendl never shows emotion at anything Murray does, which is a reliably entertaining distraction during each of his matches.)

Stylistically, Murray is a classic counter-puncher who gets by on unparalleled quickness and reflexes and indefatigable reserves of energy; that and a booming serve, a seriously splayed running forehand he can use to hit cross-court winners at any angle, and a first-rate slice backhand that’s both deep and wide and allows him to extend rallies until his opponent eventually makes a mistake. There’s no flashy or singular characteristic: nothing on the order of Federer’s effortless grace, Nadal’s lefty lariat forehand or Djokovic’s elastic puissance. Certainly, nothing that by itself explains why, at the age of 26, Murray has finally made the Big Three of tennis into a Big Four. The simplest or most narrative-ready explanation is that he’s always had the pure ability to compete but that that Lendl has loaned him some I Must Break You aggression, and that Murray has physically matured to the point where this defensive baseline style becomes a smothering sleeping bag absorbing all its hapless occupant’s thrashing. 

There’s nothing boring about this, somehow—it’s awesome to watch Murray gobble up opponents’ serves, suck the air out of a penetrating forehand with his slice, chase drop shots from anywhere on the court and return shot after shot beyond the baseline until unexpectedly turning things around. Nothing ever seems to come easy for him; he’s always making a face that suggests his large intestine is being pulled out one tug at a time. Just as Nadal with Federer and Djokovic with Nadal, he’s emerged as a natural foil for Novak Djokovic, presently the undisputed number one in the world and someone who plays with the ceaseless advance of a Terminator. In their final, they combined for three of the twelve longest rallies that happened during the entirety of Wimbledon; they also had a 54-shot rally in the 2012 U.S. Open that totally made everyone watching, computer-lapped, resolve to start exercising or something. 

Djokovic is quite probably better—the rankings reflect that, and Murray has yet to have the same level of success on clay, which still means finishing second to Nadal, unkillable goliath he remains on the surface. But Murray’s won two of the last three Grand Slam finals in which he has faced Djokovic, including a straight-set walloping at the Wimbledon final, the first time Djokovic’s been done in that quickly at a major in three years. Barring injury, they’re absolutely the favorites to appear in a rematch at the U.S. Open. 

There’s another formative piece of this puzzle that’s often mentioned, too; it’s off the benign tennis narrative, and attempts to fit it in are invariably a little queasy. But it’s a fact that a nine-year old Murray was present at the Dunblane massacre, which was something like the Scottish equivalent of the Newtown shootings, in which gunman Thomas Hamilton shot 16 schoolchildren and one adult at Dunblane Primary School before killing himself. Murray was a class above those who were shot and not intimately familiar with any of them; perhaps more chillingly, he appears to have been casual family friends with the shooter. Here he is, writing in his autobiography about the incident:

“Some of my friends' brothers and sisters were killed. I have only retained patch impressions of that day, such as being in a classroom singing songs. The weirdest thing was that we knew the guy. He had been in my mum's car. It's obviously weird to think you had a murderer in your car, sitting next to your mum. That is probably another reason why I don't want to look back at it. It is just so uncomfortable to think that it was someone we knew from the Boys Club. We used to go to the club and have fun. Then to find out he's a murderer was something my brain couldn't cope with. I could have been one of those children.”

None of which is mine or anyone else’s to interpret or turn into some maudlin poem about the triumph of the human spirit except to say, wow. He doesn’t talk about it much, and at any rate, it’s Murray’s experience to hoard or explain as he sees fit. We can only assume it’s in there, somewhere, in the rituals and the self-beratement and fist pumps. But we can only assume.

***

We’re left to figure out what Murray is like from the way he plays because he barely gives an inkling of personality off the court. Seriously: he admitted to being intentionally boring and came off like the World’s Dullest Man in a series of interviews with the New York Times during the 2012 U.S. Open. He mumbles when he talks. Until I followed him on Twitter and watched him give enthusiastic commentary during the French Open, which he was watching from home, I wouldn’t have even thought he liked tennis; it might’ve just been something he proved to be good at, and hey, why not make millions of pounds to travel the world? (Here’s one of his recent commercials, in which he delivers his only line with the charisma of a dead gopher.)

The main signs of life he shows are in those pained faces and sarcastic conversations, most of which comes out when he’s not having a great go of things. But where the old Murray—the one who had such a poor showing in his first finals—might have folded after having a fit, the new, post-Slam model seems to have figured out how to slow his roll in those temperamental moments. Losing in straight sets to Verdasco would’ve been a disaster, but he came back; he also held triple championship point in the final before Djokovic battled back to even it up and even force a few break points, all of which carried the possibility of a heavy, career-crushing collapse. If he’d lost the match after being up that much in front of this crowd, it would’ve been one of the most humiliating losses at any level of sport. But Murray calmed himself and eventually won the championship on that game. He’s only neurotic to a point.

The boilerplate #sportstake would be that Murray “learned how to win” at the Olympics, which is why he’s now a perennial contender instead of That Sour Boy. Which, sure, but there’s a wrinkle to this generally approachable truth, which is that Murray has failed. A lot. In embarrassing fashion, to the point where not-so-informed strangers would have open discussions about whether he’d ever succeed at the ultimate level, since who doesn’t love to speculate on why an athlete isn’t performing up to some vague set of expectations. 

All of which, we must once again assume, likely weighed on his mind as failure does on anyone’s until, one day—whenever and why-ever it was—Murray figured it out. That he’s failed so much internalized itself as an endearingly humble quality, too: He’s had some of the most successful 12 months of anyone in tennis, and yet was being completely serious when, prior to Wimbledon, he said he might never win. And then he went out and did it. 

Murray is a prodigy in plenty of ways—duh, this is his job—but this grappling with failure is the part that simultaneously drags him down Olympus and makes him more heroic. In this struggle, Murray feels entirely human and knowable, especially in that raw moment where he was shouting at himself. 

Think about where the path eventually ends up. There was a moment when, after the match was over, in which Djokovic sprouted this little grin as he walked away from the net, as though he’d suddenly remembered who he was: a guy who’d probably compete for the next one. Murray’s headed down a road that elite athletes travel, but he’s embraced his public oddities rather than hide them—gone self-effacingly extrovert instead of withdrawing into a Borgian cool or exploding with aggro zest. This is a champion’s choice, in its own way.

During that one-sided conversation, Murray was shouting “What are you doing?” with a look of wide-eyed surprise on his face, as though he couldn’t believe any answer he might give. Two years ago, that question might’ve been phrased more cynically and self-deprecatingly; Murray might have dropped the match altogether. This time, he was just being honest. He honestly didn’t know, and then he found an answer and figured it out.


Share |

Comments

These signals for forex can be sent via e-mail or cell phone text message or also very modern method is copying trades directly to subscribers forex trading account through trade copier.forex signals service

Classes can help you to achieve results, but if you aren’t already in shape, it’s easy to feel self-conscious and nervous while surrounded by fit gym bunnies with seemingly boundless energy. yogaburn.healthhubreview.com

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work! website design Singapore

I valued your work extremely thanks citcoline

It's offensively easy to seek out any matter on web as compared to books, as I found this text at this website.
Chris Walker - best Denver SEO services

The group is a centre for technical excellence with kingdom of the art lab centers and properly subtle curriculum which makes us live in advance and be specific inside the certification enterprise.Linux Classes in Pune

I know your expertise on this. I must say we should have an online discussion on this. Writing only comments will close the discussion straight away! And will restrict the benefits from this information.http://bedemandårhus.dk

Superbly written article, if only all bloggers offered the same content as you, the internet would be a far better place.. list of web design companies in Nairobi

This is my first opportunity to visit this website. I found some interesting things and I will apply to the development of my blog. Thanks for sharing useful information. sklep zoologiczny

Your good knowledge and kindness in playing with all the pieces was very useful. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not encountered such a step like this tanie zabawki

I'm now not sure the place you are getting your information, but good topic. I must spend a while finding out more or understanding more. Thank you for fantastic information I used to be searching for this info for my mission. kawa i herbata

I am overwhelmed by your post with such a nice topic. Usually I visit your blogs and get updated through the information you include but today’s blog would be the most appreciable. Well done! homeownersinsurancem.com

I am glad to locate your recognized method for composing the post. Presently you make it simple for me to comprehend and actualize the idea. Much obliged to you for the post. Ladenbau

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. selling homes

I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the excellent work. how to eat a healthy diet

Thanks for sharing the post.. parents are worlds best person in each lives of individual..they need or must succeed to sustain needs of the family
corporate gifts

I’m excited to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site. Aerophobia

wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated.phen-375 org

I would also motivate just about every person to save this web page for any favorite assistance to assist posted the appearance. online personal training program The Optimal You

Very informative post! There is a lot of information here that can help any business get started with a successful social networking campaign. we buy houses greensboro nc

i read a lot of stuff and i found that the way of writing to clearifing that exactly want to say was very good so i am impressed and ilike to come again in future. Steel Fabrications

The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred is good. Thanks for sharing... takiras magic method review

The page of the Twitter profile ought to be worked by possess and this ought to have the best possible points of interest of the individual. free twitter followers | clash of clans hack

As a seller of legal steroids, you can buy Crazy Bulk products, explore stacks and finally get the body you’ve always wanted. شركة نقل اثاث بالجبيل
نقل اثاث بالجبيل
افضل شركة نقل عفش بالدمام

i read a lot of stuff and i found that the way of writing to clearifing that exactly want to say was very good so i am impressed and ilike to come again in future شركة نقل اثاث بالجبيل
نقل اثاث بالجبيل
افضل شركة نقل عفش بالدمام

Thank you for sharing this amazing information with us. I have to say that this is one of the most informative article that I've seen. I was blown away by this. Great work! شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
شركة نقل عفش بالدمام

This is highly informatics, crisp and clear. I think that everything has been described in systematic manner so that reader could get maximum information and learn many things. happy birthday sister

Best work you have done, this online website is really cool with great facts. Best Survey Websites

I read this article. I think You put a lot of effort to create this article. I appreciate your work. voyance amour eternel

Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you are a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back very soon. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great job, have a nice weekend. Text Psychic

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. things to do

This article was composed by a genuine speculation essayist. I concur a considerable lot of the with the strong focuses made by the essayist. I'll be back. white hat link building

I don’t waste my free time that’s why I read the informative things when I got this blog I really enjoyed reading this. delfords boil blog review

Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know. signal booster

the big diabetes lie reviewThere are websites available online which can help you for free. You don’t need to pay anything for it and that’s the best part. Here are the sites to watch free movies online in high quality. Cheap Airport Taxi

Great site! I really cherish how it is simple on my eyes it is. I am considering how I may be informed at whatever point another post has been made. implant dentaire casablanca

It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it! bedding

Awesome! It’s genuinely awesome article, I even have got obvious idea concerning from this article.
Blue Screen of Death

I found this really helpful. I hope you continue to put out great content like it.photo booth ottawa

This article has some vast and valuable information about this subject.
myob blacktown

Hey – great blog, just looking around some blogs, seems a really nice platform you are using. CES Awards

I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the excellent work. home activities

Comprar Seguidores Linkedin al menor precio a partir de 7,99€.Aumentar vos rango en Linkedin con la ayuda de nuestros Seguidores. comprar seguidores linkedin barato

I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!! teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons reviews

Buy now Linkedin Followers at the Lowest Price starting from $8.99. Increase sustainable your Linkedin range with the help of our Linkedin Followers. buy linkedin connections

I as of late went over your online journal and have been perusing along. I thought I would leave my first remark. I don"t comprehend what to say aside from that I have delighted in perusing. Decent blog, I will continue going by this web journal all the time. buy safe YouTube views

I as of late went over your site and have been perusing along. I thought I would leave my first remark. I don't recognize what to say with the exception of that I have delighted in perusing. Decent blog, I will continue going by this online journal all the time. fish tank

Many thanks for the exciting blog posting! Simply put your blog post to my favorite blog list and will look forward for additional updates. Simply wanted to write down a word in order to say thanks to you for those wonderful tips. cccam

Twitter Favoriten kaufen zu einem unschlagbar günstigen Preis ab 99 Cent. Steigern Sie nachhaltig ihre Reichweite bei Twitter mit unseren High Quality Favoriten. twitter favoriten kaufen

Acheter des favoris de qualitè sur twitter à partir de 99 cents.Augmenter votre portèe sur Twitter avec nos favoris pas chers et de qualitè. acheter favoris twitter