Andy Murray’s first day as Wimbledon champion was, in his own words, a surreal affair, fuelled by fewer hours in bed than he spent on Centre Court on Sunday, when greatness enveloped him in a final against Novak Djokovic.
He did interviews in giant clumps. Five radio slots here, ten television slots there, some Q&As on Twitter, a press conference followed by another followed by another.
By the time he walked through a throng of children and on to a tennis court in the middle of a flats complex in Kennington, south-east London, just before 1pm, he had been on the go for close to 28 hours with minimal rest.
His management said he had met 39 media requests of one form or another since sunrise – and soon it would be 40.
Murray came to Kennington with his sponsors, Adidas.
“Have A Hit With The Wimbledon Hero” was the theme and the queue snaked down the street.
He arrived by the champion’s route of flash car and an entourage – everyone else came via the twists and turns of an estate where a tennis court is surrounded on three sides by four-storey blocks of flats, with the washing hanging free and the locals peering over balconies. On the other side, where Murray walked through, there is a disused school, with grass growing where once there was a yard and rusted grates covering what were windows when Lilian Baylis Primary was in its pomp.
This is what you call legacy.
Dozens upon dozens of kids filed in from four local schools, from St Mark’s and Walnut Tree Walk, from Archbishop Sumner and Vauxhall.
None of them had any idea that they were being brought to meet Murray.
“We only found out this morning,” says Elisa, from P6 at St Mark’s. “Our teacher said she had a surprise.”
“No,” says Joseph, her class-mate. “She said she had a secret, not a surprise.”
“A secret, yeah, a secret,” says Elisa. “I’ve been a massive Andy fan since he started playing. Well, kinda. He’s my inspiration.
“I want to be a ball girl at Wimbledon. I’ve looked it up. You need to do two years training and about 750 people apply. I’m going to try.
“Anyway, our teacher said, ‘You’ll never guess who we’re going to see today…’
“None of us could believe it. Andy Murray!”
Elisa and Joseph and their friends Daniel and Azriel are holding tennis balls and water bottles, and pieces of paper that they want the champion to sign – and he will sign.
They express amazement that I live in Scotland. They don’t believe me when I say I live near Dunblane.
“You live near Dunblane!” shouts Elisa. “No way!”
When youngsters shriek because you tell them you’re local to Dunblane, you know something extraordinary has happened. Dunblane is not Vegas, but it’s taken on new significance because of Murray.
It has some mystical quality in the eyes of kids who had never heard of it, and still couldn’t find it on a map, just because that is where their favourite is from.
“You really live near Dunblane. That is so cool.”
You might call this the Murray Effect and it’s safe to assume that no matter where the champion fetched up at yesterday, the same giddy scenes would have played out.
Sure, this was part corporate gig, but the kids gave it an innocence that made it real.
Nobody from Adidas could have coached those kids into reacting as they did.
This was genuine, heartfelt awe.
It was moving in a way. At one point a three-and-a-half-year-old boy called Thomas Palmer climbed off his toy scooter and was beckoned on to the court to play a point with Murray.
He was as brave as a Lion and as quiet as a kitten. His mum helped him bat the ball, then explained that her boy was an obsessive tennis fan, that he was in the garden with his racquet all the time, that he watches the matches and knows the names of the stars.
“Who’s your favourite player, Thomas?” we asked him.
“Andy Murray,” he whispered.”
“Who did he beat yesterday?”
Close enough, Thomas. Close enough.
Murray will be forever Dunblane, but he is the world’s star now, not just Scotland’s.
He says that he is looking forward to going home – it will always be home – but he doesn’t know when it will be.
He needs sleep, then a holiday in the sun, and then he needs to defend his US Open title.
His grandparents weren’t at Wimbledon and that was a shame, he said. He’ll see them when he can.
He said he had taken a photograph at Wimbledon that morning of all of the front and back pages of the newspapers, but hadn’t read anything.
“My mum used to keep a scrapbook, but I’m not sure how much she does now.
“There’s a lot of stuff in the papers today.”
“A lot of stuff,” he repeated.
“Yeah, the magnitude of what happened is still surreal to me and it’s going to take a few days to get my ahead around it, to understand that I won Wimbledon yesterday.
“I mean, I feel fulfilled but I hope there is more to come. I think there is a lot more that I can achieve in my career.”
Murray won a fortune yesterday and the predictions of the wealth that will come his way post-Wimbledon are eye- watering.
Over the microphone, for all to hear, the master of ceremonies in Kennington asked the player exactly how much he had won for his Wimbledon title and it was the one time in the entire day that he looked uncomfortable.
Embarrassed. He lowered his head and said quietly: “A ridiculous amount.”
He has enjoyed this, though. “I’m getting tired now, I have to admit,” he said, after we’d retreated through a gate into an oasis of calm.
“I’m looking forward to having a rest. I’m getting through on adrenaline.
“This is nice, though.
“I used to play down at my local club with my brother and it was always deserted down there, so it’s lovely to see so many kids coming out to play and some of them are good.
“It’s a nice facility, this. The more of these we can have the better.”
Scotston House was next to us. Around the corner was Edinburgh House. Overlooking the court where Murray now stood with the Wimbledon trophy on a plinth beside him was Beckham House,
David Beckham having been in touch with Murray since his victory, but then who hadn’t?
Sir Alex Ferguson had texted Murray from a cruise boat on the coast of Scotland and everybody who was anybody had tweeted their congratulations.
David Cameron was talking about a knighthood, but this place, the Black Prince Community Hub in SE11, was a world away from such grandeur and light years distant from Wimbledon.
For two hours all human life was here – all ages, all sizes, black and white. There was young Thomas and there was an even younger tot, who was overcome. Murray gently dabbed the ball over the net and she swung and missed it.
Walking off the court she tried to hold back the tears but couldn’t. She was brought back on with her mother and together they faced another Murray tap, which they sent across the net to the roars of the on-lookers and the smiles of the Wimbledon champion.
More than 100 ran on to the court to have a hit with Murray.
There was a vicar called Angus and his dog, Rocky. There was the bloke who ran so hard to retrieve a Murray lob that he collided with a copper.
There was a fellow who said his name was Djokovic, another who said he was called “PleaseGoEasyOnMeAndy”.
Jon Snow from Channel 4 News had a knock. Next up: Jason from Auchterarder.
“Auchterarder?” said the MC. “That sounds Scottish, Andy.”
“It’s next to my house!” said Murray. Home, you see.
Right at the end, the Milky Bar Kid appeared.
Last week, Murray tweeted after one of his matches that he was lying on his bed enjoying the rare pleasure of a Milky Bar. The Milky Bar Kid (or a version of him) appeared from nowhere, in full uniform and with a sports bag full of his product.
“Andy! Andy!” he said. “Look! I brought you all this.”
Later, I asked Murray what was the weirdest thing that had happened to him since that epic final game on Centre Court and he said it was probably the bonkers arrival of the “strong and tough” cowboy.
“I don’t quite understand what’s happening there,” he laughed. “Strange, yeah. He has a whole bag full of melted Milky Bars.”
After two hours in the heat of Kennington, he pulled on a suit and headed for Downing Street.
God knows how he kept his eyes open; 28 hours and counting, and virtually no kip.
Last night he would have slept the sleep of a champion, with so many memories of his first day as king of Wimbledon.
From the Milky Bar Kid to the Prime Minister, to Angus the Vicar and Rocky the dog.
From an obsessive fan called Thomas who is just three and a half, to a little girl called Elisa who thinks Dunblane is exotic and who wants to be a ball girl at Wimbledon just so she can see Murray play.
It’s not only titles he’s winning. It’s hearts.
17.3m viewers give men’s final top spot
Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory was watched by a peak of 17.3 million viewers, the BBC said. The figure was up on last year’s final, which was watched by a peak of 17 million when Murray lost to Roger Federer. Murray’s win has become the highest-rated TV programme of the year so far, beating the live final of Britain’s Got Talent last month, when Simon Cowell was pelted with eggs.