Aidan Smith: Murray a great with nothing to prove
As you read this I’ll be in the National Museum of Scotland, listening to Jackie Stewart, thinking about Andy Murray. Every Tuesday, my day off, the three year old insists we go to the museum, insists we rush round her favourite five exhibits, insists that en route from moth-catching to medieval dressing-up we stop at Stewart’s Tyrrell 003 where we can press phones to our ears and hear for the umpteenth time how he became Formula 1 champ.
I never get tired of doing this but I’m starting to wonder how Scotland will celebrate Murray’s career when it’s over. The NMS would presumably want the racket with which he clinched Wimbledon – not one of the random half-dozen carried in the jumbo bag but the actual Djoko-despatching paddle. There would be something interactive, perhaps an activity in which you would attempt to ace Murray on a computer storing every service-return he ever magicked up. Across Edinburgh, the National Portrait Gallery would commission his likeness and maybe the painting would pay particular attention to making the jawline as heroic as possible, such as that achieved for Colin Montgomerie. And who’s to say Murray wouldn’t have a museum all of his own?
What a moment this is. We’re contemplating Murray’s legacy while he’s at the peak of his powers. That’s because his achievements thus far have been so fabulous. But at the same time we’re asking: Are two Grand Slam titles really enough? Honestly, those of us who love to thrill to Scottish sporting achievement but don’t often get the chance have never found ourselves pontificating like this before.
If you’re old enough to have sat with a soggy backside at Craiglockhart, Edinburgh and wondered when the highly optimistic-sounding Scottish Lawn Tennis Championships were ever going to start… if you’re old enough to have laughed along with Clive James’ TV reviews of Wimbledon when he noted the swiftness with which British hopefuls would pack away their whites and move into the commentary-box… if you’re old enough to have thought that Winnie Wooldridge was probably destined for evermore to be the only native Scot to win a singles match in SW19… then the ostentatious conversation we’re having right now is even more astonishing.
Sunday when he took his fourth Queen’s title was the tenth anniversary of Murray matching Wooldridge’s feat. We thought he might win more than one match at Wimbledon, but the championship? Don’t forget that in his mother Judy’s memorable phrase, he hailed “from a country where there was no tennis”. Yet here we are now, totting up his majors thus far and getting greedy.
It’s exciting, counting down the days until next Monday when the hush descends, the ballboys crouch and the umpire calls for “play”, but I’m slightly concerned we might be getting over-excited. Maybe the last time there was this amount of expectancy concerning a Scot about to participate in sport was the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
Look at the reaction to the Queen’s triumph: “A brilliant display… perfect tennis… his best on grass since he ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a Wimbledon men’s champion.” Murray managed to win without his coach being present, the heavily-pregnant Amélie Mauresmo resting up for Monday, and a lot of the coverage pointed out that her assistant Jonas Bjorkman could now claim a 100 per cent record working with our man – an accurate but somewhat flowery stat given that the Swede has only recently joined Team Murray. Let’s try to keep calm, everybody.
Jose Mourinho doesn’t really do calm. He’s a passionate football man and, where Murray’s concerned, a passionate tennis man, too. The pair have struck up a friendship with the Chelsea manager revealing that the 2013 victory over Novak Djokovic had reduced him to tears of joy.
A major player in global sport, Mourinho rarely gets the opportunity to comment on Scottish matters. The last I can recall was the bird flu scare of 2006. “I’m feeling a lot of pressure with the swan in Scotland,” he said. “You are laughing but I’m serious. I’m more scared of it than football. This is the drama of the last two days. What is football compared with life? I have to buy some masks and stuff.”
Recalling Murray’s Wimbledon triumph, he said: “It was something that obviously meant more than anything in his career. I could imagine it was something from another world. It was more than a game, more than a tournament. He’d broken the psychological wall that was there for every British person who loves tennis.”
Mourinho went on to draw pointed comparisons between his sport and Murray’s:
“In football sometimes we hide behind each other. In tennis they take penalty shootouts all day.” It’s the solitary, epic conditions of a championship final which encourages many to believe that Murray is already Scottish sport’s greatest-ever. Although I’m one of them, that’s an argument for another day, when it’s all over for him, and it’s not yet.
With as much clear-headed and controlled objectivity as is possible to muster, we can say that he’s playing very well indeed. Let’s be honest, we’d have clasped Murray to our rain-sodden hearts even if he’d been a dull, thudding brute with only one killer shot – an elephant-gun serve – but he’s a classy player who’s still getting classier. While Ivan Lendl showed him how to play with more aggression, Mauresmo has restored the flair, with Judy confirming: “Amélie has brought back a lot of the creativity to his game.”
Immortality is already his. He doesn’t have to win Wimbledon again but he’s Andy Murray so he’ll reckon he does. It’s a delicious situation with just six days to go but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. And, certainly, let’s not organise a presumptuous open-top bus parade before the tournament begins, like we did in ’78.