From tennis outcast to Centre Court star – it has been an interesting few years for Liam Broady.
To be perfectly accurate, Broady will not be the real star of the show today as he faces Andy Murray, but he will certainly play an intriguing supporting role. The world No 235 was given his ticket to the main draw with a wild card, so, in theory, should not trouble the world No 2 for too long. But, then again, this is an opportunity like no other and Broady has nothing to lose.
The man from Stockport has been slowly inching his way up the rankings for the past eight months, ever since he cut all ties with the Lawn Tennis Association and refused their funding. This great parting of the ways was done to settle a family feud: Broady wanted to rebuild bridges with his father.
Back in 2007, Liam’s sister Naomi had her LTA funding cut when a photograph of her posing beside a condom machine was lifted from her social media account and plastered all over the newspapers. She was 17 at the time. Her father was so incensed that he pulled Liam, then aged 13, out of the LTA’s development programme and sold the family house to fund the tennis careers of both of his children.
But, in 2012, Liam, now an adult, went back to the LTA and accepted their financial support. After that, his father refused to speak to him. And, in order to heal that rift, Liam cut his ties with the LTA last November and decided to go it alone.
“I stopped working with the LTA in November to try to reach out to him,” he said. “We are getting there, I hope, but things are still frosty with my dad. I know he keeps track of my results but he doesn’t really wish me luck or ask how I’m doing.”
Independence has done Broady no harm: at the end of last year, he was ranked No 300 in the world and this week he is 65 places higher.
That rise may well be put on hold this afternoon, though. Taking on Murray is just about as tough as it gets on tour; the only thing worse would be facing Novak Djokovic.
“That’s the thing,” Broady said. “To prepare for Andy the best practice I could get would be Andy or Novak. And they don’t want to, surprisingly enough. There’s no-one else really like that in the draw.
“I am just going to go out there and do what I do. To be honest, I don’t know what to expect from Andy.
“I am just going to go out there, play the ball and play to the level I know I can play at and see if I can make him raise his level, make him play well and see what I can get on the day.”
Murray takes a keen interest in all the other British players, offering help or advice if it requested and generally offering as much support as his schedule allows. As a result, everyone knows the Scot well although very few compete at a level where they may actually have to play him. Today, then, is uncharted territory for Broady.
“I saw Andy on Sunday for the first time since the draw came out and we said hello and had a little grin at each other,” he said. “I obviously know his team well, so I had a laugh with them. I have no resentment towards him, he’s a great guy. But, as soon as we get on court, it will be all business and nothing else.”
If all else fails, Broady can call upon one winning memory he has of playing Murray – he beat him in one round of “eleven out of the hand” – no serve, play the ball from the hand and the first to 11 points wins. But it was still only the one round; Murray was not going to let Broady win outright.
“I think we played best of three and I won one of them,” Broady said. “So I’ll see if the umpire can play without a serve. I’m just going to go out there and compete as hard as I can, fight for every point and do myself justice, and see what I can get out of it.”