Monday 11 December 2017

Off the Ball: Murray becomes Mr Interesting

Andy Murray celebrates winning the final against Serbia's Novak Djokovic Picture: Reuters
Andy Murray celebrates winning the final against Serbia's Novak Djokovic Picture: Reuters

Joe Molloy

There are a lot of things to like about Andy Murray. His Wimbledon win, Olympic gold medal, French and Australian Open finals and numerous ATP titles amount to a phenomenal 2016. Once again, Ivan Lendl has provided a magic touch. The pair don't work closely. Lendl operates from a distance, liaising mainly with Murray's day-to-day coach, but whatever the alchemy, it's good.

The overarching truth of Murray's career at this point, is that he has willed himself to the pinnacle of the sport. Born into the greatest era in men's tennis history, it seemed it was his fate to miss out on Grand Slam glory. He currently sits on three. One suddenly feels five is very attainable within a year.

The other thing about him has been his utter abhorrence of guff. Murray never adjusted his personality to suit the public; instead, over time, the public has adjusted to him. We've come to understand his ways.

What was initially regarded as a surly, sulky personality is now understood as authentic, and principled. An unsmiling, awkward interview has taken on a different feel. We understand it can happen when you behave like a normal person in such a false environment or when you point it out to interviewers when they have things wrong.

On the issue of doping, he been a rare strong voice in his sport. Of the fraternity, Murray was especially outraged at the fallout from Operation Puerto. He said it's "beyond a joke. The biggest cover-up in sports history? Why would court order blood bags be destroyed?"

He had zero sympathy for Maria Sharapova and routinely argues: "We should be saving blood samples for 10, 15, 20 years to come, you have to scare away the people who think they could cheat. You have to scare them so they will not do it, so they could retroactively also be banned, and take away titles and so forth."

In short, he has a brain. And integrity. And a ferocious work ethic, and has quietly become perhaps Britain's most interesting sportsperson; not that he would care about such nonsense. But it's worth acknowledging. Bring on the Australian Open.

Irish Independent

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