Interview: Alix Ramsay meets the Murray brothers

Andy Murray, left, and his brother Jamie pictured during a Davis Cup tie, have done so much for Scottish and British tennis over the years. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty
Andy Murray, left, and his brother Jamie pictured during a Davis Cup tie, have done so much for Scottish and British tennis over the years. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty
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They are the royal family of British tennis: Andy and Jamie Murray, three-time grand slam champions both, world No.1s both (current and former, respectively). Tomorrow Wimbledon begins and the two brothers will start their 12th campaign – Andy is the defending champion looking to overcome a season of mediocre form and recurring injuries to win his third title in SW19. Jamie is hoping to go one step further than his runners-up place in 2015 (although he did win the mixed doubles with Jelena Jankovic in 2007). It has been a long and winding road from their early days in Dunblane to their current exalted positions as masters of the singles and doubles world. On the eve of The Championships, they reflected on where they came from, how they got here and how two fiercely competitive brothers have basically not changed much at all.

They are the royal family of British tennis: Andy and Jamie Murray, three-time grand slam champions both, world No.1s both (current and former, respectively). Tomorrow Wimbledon begins and the two brothers will start their 12th campaign – Andy is the defending champion looking to overcome a season of mediocre form and recurring injuries to win his third title in SW19. Jamie is hoping to go one step further than his runners-up place in 2015 (although he did win the mixed doubles with Jelena Jankovic in 2007). It has been a long and winding road from their early days in Dunblane to their current exalted positions as masters of the singles and doubles world. On the eve of The Championships, they reflected on where they came from, how they got here and how two fiercely competitive brothers have basically not changed much at all.

How would you like to be remembered?

JAMIE: I’d like to think that people came to watch me and they were entertained because at the end of the day, that’s what it is. So that’s what I would hope for.

ANDY: I’d like to be remembered as someone that was always true to himself, worked as hard as he possibly could and fought for absolutely everything, especially during the hard times.

How would you like the Murray family to be remembered?

JAMIE: It’s not like we changed the world or anything like that. But I would hope that in Scotland that we did enough things on the tennis court that we’ll be remembered for the change that we made or the opportunities that were created, or the kids that were inspired to pick up tennis racquets – that they had a chance to become players. I think if we stopped playing tomorrow, I think it would be done. Like there would be no follow up, there would be no continuity or anything like that. And I think, to be honest, what my mum is doing is arguably more important than what we’re doing. Because she’s the one is Scotland that’s got initiatives and she’s doing it all by herself. There’s nobody helping her. It’s her own initiative that’s getting out, trying to introduce kids to tennis, or train up coaches or teachers to be able to teach really basic tennis and get kids excited about tennis. If we all had to stop tomorrow, that would die a quick death, which is really sad actually.

ANDY: We’d like to think that when we’ve finished playing tennis, that tennis as a sport in the UK and especially in Scotland is going to be in a better place than it was all those years ago when we first started playing. We didn’t have all the funding in the world, or the best facilities when we first started out, but we still managed to find a way to make things work and succeed against the odds. It would be great if we could leave a story of inspiration for others to look at and think that it’s possible for them too.

Your mum basically invented tennis in Scotland – can you sum up just how much things have changed since she has been involved?

JAMIE: She is a one-man-band right now and the thing is she needs the backing of government, she needs the backing of Tennis Scotland and I’m not really sure that that’s happening. It’s sad when I think of the amount of hours and effort that she’s putting in to try to make the most of what we’ve been doing on the court and I kind of feel like in a way she wasting her time – I mean, she’s not, obviously – but in a way I feel like she is. And that hurts me because I know how much she wants to do it and make a difference. But the thing is, you have you do it now while we’re current because people forget. That’s why she’s so determined to do it now and urging other people to make the most of it now because the chances are we’ll never get another Andy, that’s almost a certainty. Not in our lifetimes, I would guess. The stuff that Andy’s been doing is incredible and people should be falling over their feet to take advantage of that. But they’re not. And that’s a shame, really.

ANDY: The support available for players has changed now as have the facilities. There’s obviously still a long way to go but our mum has really taken it as a personal challenge to improve things for kids, regardless of their level – making tennis fun and accessible for everyone.

Best recollections of 2016 – a fantastic year for you both?

JAMIE: I guess on a personal level, the obvious one’s really was winning the first grand slam in Australia [with Brazilian Bruno Soares]. It was our third tournament together – it was so soon in the partnership. To do that was really special. For both of us [Andy and Jamie] to be in the final, as well, was really cool. Then the US Open as well was a huge, huge achievement for us again. I’ve said it a million times already but to win two grand slams in a year is an amazing achievement. And then obviously in March when I got to the top of the individual rankings, that was really cool. Because even though we finished No.1 as a team was brilliant and such a cool achievement, it’s still an individual sport in a way. Like I’m playing with Bruno but next year I might not, next week I might not. You’re still there for yourself. And obviously I’d had a lot of help from him and [former partner] John Peers to get there but still to say that you got to the top of your sport – no one will take that away from you.

ANDY: It was obviously an incredible year for a variety of reasons and not something either of us had ever expected to happen. A lot of hard work over many years came together, and it was special to reach the very top of our sport in the same year together.

You and Andy were always competitive with each other as kids – are you still competing with each other now that you are grown up, both married men?

JAMIE: I guess outside of tennis, we’re not necessarily competing at anything unless it’s for fun. But to be honest, off the court, we don’t really see each other that much. Fantasy Football is the only thing we really compete at and everyone gets quite into that but he’s won it the last three years so he’s had enough success I think! At that, yeah, we want to be the best we want to beat each other. We want to be the best manager and then you’ve got that over the other guy for a whole season which is good.

ANDY: Definitely we’re still incredibly competitive. It’s not so much in our careers but little things outside of tennis we might get competitive over. It could be anything from a friendly game of ping pong in the player lounge to playing family games around the table at Christmas time.

When you were kids, could you ever have imagined the two of you, 20 years later, being in the positions you are now?

JAMIE: No, and I think anyone who would say otherwise would be lying because you just never know. Of course we were good and we were good internationally from a young age but, still, the journey is so long – not just to get to No.1 but to get to the position that you’re playing on the tour. It’s so much time and sacrifice but it’s worth it, obviously. It is such a unique thing to say that we both got to No.1 in our discipline, we both finished the year end No.1 in the same year – you could never plan that. It’s just such a unique thing.

ANDY: Obviously when you’re young you have hopes and dreams, even more so if you start doing well in your sport and it’s only natural to think about winning grand slams and becoming the world No.1. Obviously, thinking and doing are completely different things and it can often be very difficult to turn those dreams into a reality. Thankfully our parents taught us to work hard at absolutely everything we did, and to focus on each session/match/tournament as it comes, rather than look too far ahead. That mentality kept us grounded and meant we could focus on the task and trust that the results would follow.

Earliest memories of being skinny, wee lads with racquets in Scotland?

JAMIE: I guess in the UK, everything is Wimbledon. That’s what tennis is in the country and the grand scheme of things. We always watched Wimbledon growing up and we went down to Wimbledon with our tennis club. We took a bus load of kids down. We were probably the youngest ones there – we were seven and eight, maybe. Like everyone else: you come home from school, turn on BBC 1, watch Wimbledon, watch Today at Wimbledon, watch all the guys playing – that was motivating for us, I guess. And to play: the first time I played was like 2005, 2006 maybe. We lost in the first round, me and Colin [Fleming], in the doubles but it was still great just to be there and to experience it and to want to do better and better because you want to be playing at that level, at those tournaments, because that’s what’s exciting.

ANDY: When we were really young it was biscuit tin lids! We used play our versions of games in our living room often with balloons and a piece of string draped across the middle of the room. Our parents would often think of little games that would help us with our tennis, they’d usually start as a bit of fun before quickly descending into fierce competition, which would often end in an unsanctioned wrestling match for the WWE world title belt!

Andy’s best attribute? And his worst?

JAMIE: I think for his tennis, his stubbornness is his best thing but sometimes it’s his worst thing. But I think he’s not as much like that as he used to be, he’s maybe a bit more open minded, more aware of certain things. As a person, he is very genuine. What you see is what you get. On the court, he is pretty feisty and that’s what people see when they turn on the TV but that’s not him. If you’re speaking to him in a non-tennisy environment, he’s very down to earth like most other people, I’d say. He doesn’t live a glamorous lifestyle, he likes peace and quiet and everything kind of calm. There’s no show.

Jamie’s best attribute? And his worst?

ANDY: Tough question, there’s 
far too many to choose from, but if I had to pick I’d say he’s a great listener. We talk a fair bit, so it’s 
nice to know he’s always got my 
back and I hope he feels the same. 
As for his worst, I’d say his dress sense could probably do with some work. On the court he looks great, off the court he’s made some questionable fashion decisions over the years.

For all the family’s success, are you still a bog-standard family? Do you still bicker at Christmas, moan when someone forgets a birthday?

JAMIE: I guess so. But we’re always far from our family – that’s the thing – because we’re out on the road. Even at home, where home is London now, everyone else is still up in Scotland so a lot of times it’s communication through texting and that stuff. But we’re still really close. I love going home when I get the chance to get back to Scotland.

ANDY: Definitely, that’s one thing I’ve always been quite proud of. We’re just a normal family who do exactly the same things as any other at Christmas. It might be a conversation topic every now and then, but every year will always be the same, we’ll be arguing over who gets the last piece of my gran’s shortbread, who’s wearing the worst Christmas jumper or who’s got the best present (usually Jamie). Every year is the same and I love it.