February 21, 2013
The third woman
Long-time observers of Andy Murray will be well aware of the two most important women in his life-his mother Judy and his girlfriend Kim Sears, ever-present in the stands, tirelessly watching him wherever he plays.
But they probably haven’t noticed me, present at almost every match, win or lose.
I’ve seen him at Wimbledon, Queens Club, the ATP Masters and the Olympics to name a few.
I’ve even had the privilege of watching him in some incredible places across the globe, including Marrakesh, Geneva and America’s East Coast.
I have seen many a British hopeful come and go, and developed a long memory of the game in the process.
Plenty ‘next generation’ stars have been and gone; Jamie Delgado, Buster Mottram, Stephen Warboys and Jeremy Bates to name a few.
All have fluttered with our desire for a new British champion, but alas, have never come up with the goods.
Then it was the turn of ‘Tiger’ Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski to drag Blighty out of the dark ages and into the tennis elite.
Yes Henman had passion, determination and heart, but unfortunately, he wasn’t the one to lead us to victory.
He knew it, and we knew it.
Rusedski was a feistier player than Tim, and his appearance at the 1997 US Open final gave us hope, but yet again disappointment followed.
This yet again meant that us British fans were in need of another new hero.
How it Began
The first time I saw Andy Murray was playing the outdoors courts at Wimbledon, playing doubles with his brother Jamie.
Then in 2004, we heard of his success in the boys singles at the US Open, but doubt again emerged in my mind, as boy’s champions very rarely replicate their success in the men’s game.
Our fears were magnified when, stepping in for an injured Tim Henman at the Super 8 tournament, a young, bad tempered Murray was swept aside by John McEnroe.
But after an impressive display at Queen’s, the time had come for Andy to take his place on Centre Court at SW19.
Murray started well against David Nalbaldian, winning the first two sets. But disaster struck as Andy let his lead slip and gave the match to Nalbaldian.
Although obviously disappointed, as I left the All England Club that day I knew he had it in him to one day be a champion.
I Love Andy
Andy is often accused of being dour, boring, charmless and perhaps most unfairly, anti-English.
This is obviously all rubbish.
I love Andy because of his passion to win, that he doesn’t care what you, I or anyone else thinks and his urge to steer clear of celebrity culture.
It’s no secret that he’s a fan of scrabble and loves his two border Terriers, Maggie May and Rusty.
And although he doesn’t have the grace or elegance of Federer, the flair of Nadal, or that he doesn’t punch his chest like Djokovic, Andy is great because of one thing,
what you see is what you get.
The Nearly Man
So after a year of hits, misses and maybes, Andy was world number 2, an Australian and US Open finalist and I’d been there all the way, missing many a meeting and work day to follow my hero.
I must also confess (if somewhat privately), that I did have my doubts about Murray.
His desperate defeat against Federer at the US Open final was bitterly disappointing. And I was present at his heart-breaking semi-final defeat to Nadal at Wimbledon in 2011.
I vowed never to return to a semi-final Murray match.
A public debate began regarding his on-court issues, and whether he needed to see a specialist.
I also listened as people told me he was ‘the best player since Fred Perry, but never a Grand Slam champ’. Surely he had to prove them wrong.
Success! Murray reached the final of Wimbledon 2012, where he actually managed to claim a set against Federer.
I once again witnessed him lose a Grand Slam final, but unlike before, he showed the maturity and endurance of someone who was on the cusp of greatness.
The Olympics tennis final arrived and don’t ask me how, but against all odds I managed to get a ticket.
In three fairly straightforward sets, Andy swept aside Roger Federer to claim gold. Although an incredible achievement, it wasn’t a Grand Slam.
Andy’s chance at Grand Slam success arrived again when he reached the final of the 2012 US Open against Novak Djokovic. Although I wasn’t present, I was glued to my television from 9pm until the climax at 2 am.
My cat, Cassie, who has been left positively traumatised by my over-jubilant celebrations, has retreated to a quiet spot in the garden, only returning when I assured her the shouting and cheering had ceased.
I sat in awe as Andy spectacularly won the first two sets against the Serbian star. But Djokovic roared back to tie at two sets all.
Disaster soon approaching, or so I thought.
But Andy fought back and did it! He actually did it and ended Britain’s 76 year wait for a Grand Slam champion.
Like the other thousands of fans, and Andy himself, I was left drained and emotional. In the post-match interview, Murray seemed tired, stunned and told the press that he missed his dogs.
I was overjoyed as texts and emails flooded my inbox to congratulate me for my part in Andy’s victory.
The words of from My Fair Lady came to mind…..
Tonight, old man, you did it!
You did it! You did it! You said that you would do it,
And indeed you did. I thought that you would rue it;
I doubted you’d do it. But now I must admit it
That succeed you did. You should get a medal
Or be even made a knight…
by Jackie Elton, Andy Murray’s No. 1 Fan