The hype is building around Andy Murray once again. The Resident caught up with the tennis ace to discuss his Wimbledon hopes and how he is juggling professional sport with fatherhood following the birth of his daughter in February…
Words: James Toney
Wimbledon’s defining, often baffling, traditions and protocols are so enduring that you can set your watch by them. And, in recent years, another has been added to the queues, cuisine and strict dress code – Andy Murray acting as lone standard bearer for home fans too long reared on tales of pluck and bad luck.
But things are changing and there is a quiet optimism that the Brits are back in their own backyard and he’s finally got some quality company. In the last seven years, Murray has only failed to go beyond the quarter-finals once, famously erasing a stubborn stain on the British sporting consciousness with his victory on Wimbledon’s manicured lawns three years ago.
Too often, though, he’s been the only British player to make the second round, let alone the second week. However, Johanna Konta became the first British women’s player to make a Grand Slam singles semi-final in 32 years at the Australian Open earlier this year. In addition, Heather Watson claimed her third tour title in Hobart and Kyle Edmund has cracked the world’s top 100, after helping Murray and team-mates win the Davis Cup last November.
In the doubles game, Murray’s brother Jamie has found consistency with Brazilian Bruno Soares, who he partnered to victory in the Australian Open, a win that secured him world number one status.
All of which means Murray heads to the All England Club knowing expectations aren’t solely focused on his performance. ‘Johanna’s consistency has really impressed me,’ says Murray. ‘It’s not like she’s had one fortunate tournament, she’s now getting wins against the best players. I don’t think anyone really predicted her rise, and it’s clear that she’s always been a good player, but her improvement has been remarkable.
‘She’s got the motivation and the work ethic and the desire to get better and better,’ Murray continues at pace. ‘It will be a very different Wimbledon for her this year because there will be a little bit more expectation on her, because of what she did in the Australian Open.’
Murray has also seen first-hand the improvements made by Edmund, who is a regular practice partner on the ATP Tour. In the past he has made no secret of his frustration that British players had not been inspired enough by his example to climb the rankings. He has questioned their commitment and worried about the generation that may succeed him.
But he’s been impressed by improvements made by Edmund, though it’s worth noting that at the same age Murray was already ranked in the world’s top five and had reached his first Grand Slam final in New York. ‘Kyle has come through quicker than I think a lot of people imagined – and me as well,’ he admits. ‘But now that I’ve been practicing with him over the last 12 months or so, he’s playing really well. Physically he’s in good shape and he works well. He has a big game and he’s making big improvements all the time. His movement can improve. He’s made big strides the last few months, it’s difficult to say you need to keep doing this or that though. He’s one of the highest ranked guys of his age. He just needs to keep developing his game and keep learning. He’s now competing against the best players more often so that helps.’
Murray’s love of Wimbledon isn’t just ingrained from the first time his mum, Judy, took him to the All England Club to watch his hero Andre Agassi, aged just eight. He has embraced, even thrived, on the pressure that comes with being British number one there and revels in being able to spend a month doing what every other new Dad can – working during the day and coming home to his young family at night.
Murray’s wife Kim gave birth to their first child, daughter Sophia, in February and Wimbledon gives the young couple a chance at some sort of normality. ‘My schedule is full for the next few months, all the way through to the Olympics,’ he adds. ‘It will be great to be at home for a good few weeks during the grass court season, and Kim and baby were with me throughout the French Open, so that’s a seven-week period when we can be together as a normal family. Thankfully babies are pretty portable at this age and they may spend some time with me during the US part of the season at our house in Miami. However, I don’t see us travelling as a family all the time because Kim doesn’t love just being there to watch tennis.’
Fatherhood certainly hasn’t mellowed Murray – indeed it’s made him more determined to make his daughter proud. Novak Djokovic spoke of being supercharged by the birth of his son Stefan last year – and he was virtually unstoppable in the months that followed. ‘Fatherhood is a positive experience, it can only help having other priorities and a bit of perspective,’ adds Murray. ‘There are players who it’s been tough on, but not Roger Federer or Novak, although perhaps they are just really amazing players. The outcome isn’t everything when you come home and see your child, but I want her to be proud when she grows up and sees what I did in my career.’
1. There are around 250 ball boys and girls, who are successful from 750 entries and come through rigorous training
2. Some 39,000 spectators are allowed in the grounds at any one time
3. Wimbledon is the largest single annual sporting catering operation in Europe, with 1,800 staff
4. There was a ‘predominantly in white’ clothing rule introduced in 1963, followed by an ‘almost entirely in white rule’ in 1995. Now clothing is submitted to the All England Club for comment earlier in the year
5 . Ten: the maximum minutes it takes for Centre Court’s roof to close
6. The Royal Box contains 74 dark green Lloyd Loom wicker chairs
7. The fastest men’s serve on record is 148mph (by Taylor Dent in 2010) and women’s is 129mph (by Venus Williams in 2008)
8. There are over 50,000 plants supplied each year
9. Rufus the Hawk visits the Club most weeks in the year to provide a deterrent to local pigeons by making them aware of a predator in the grounds