SARAH JUGGINS, the SJA Treasurer, kicks off a series in the build-up to our British Sports Awards in December, sponsored by the The National Lottery, by explaining why the Wimbledon men’s singles champion tops her voting list
So much in sport has the power to move us: triumph snatched from the jaws of defeat; bitter disappointment following great expectations. But rarely does anyone put his supporters through the emotional wringer more regularly than Andy Murray.
My defence of the Scot began a long time ago. When the then 19-year-old jokingly said in a press conference that he “would support anyone but England in the World Cup”, too many people failed to see the funny side. And so began a long, drawn out campaign of English ire against Murray, that reached a crescendo every summer as he made one exit after another from the Wimbledon centre stage without holding aloft the one trophy that, for 77 years, had eluded every male British tennis player.
Eighteen months ago, things began to change. First, Murray cried when he lost to Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon finals. Some still knocked him and mocked him, but the majority began to see a glimmer of the real Andy Murray behind the cool, detached exterior. Just two weeks later, Murray swept Federer aside to win the men’s singles gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. Overnight, he became a hero. Not so much because he had brought home a bauble – but because he had demonstrated just how much representing Great Britain had really mattered to him.
The first Major followed soon after, with tournament victory in the US Open.
But the knock-out blow for Murray’s detractors took place in two phases. Whoever decided that this was the year to make a documentary about Andy Murray deserves a medal for good timing. Two weeks before Wimbledon started, the BBC showed a side of Murray of which none outside his friends and family were really aware.
It would have been enough to see him hiding his face in his dog’s neck as he tried to control his emotions to answer Sue Barker’s gentle questions about Dunblane. But then we were treated to a glimpse of his wicked sense of humour as he persuaded one of his team to sit in an ice bath for the camera and we saw him being on the receiving end of Rafa Nadal’s own teasing in a restaurant in Florida.
Suddenly, we discover that Andy Murray is a caring, considerate and good humoured individual, who is popular with the other players on the circuit. Add to that a sense of integrity – he has led a push among the top seeds for lower ranked players to get a bigger share of tournament earnings – and a willingness to take part in Comic Relief, and the Murray naysayers are plunged into confusion.
And then, the final act in the Murray redemption. Wimbledon 2013. Sunday July 7. Facing Novak Djokovic, the world No1, Murray scrambled, slid, battled, screamed and flung himself all over the court to emerge the winner in a match more gruelling than is reflected by the 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 straight sets scoreline.
Amid all the hype, congratulations and adoration that followed that victory, Murray remained grounded. Asked what he thought Fred Perry might have said to him, Murray, these days attired in a rival firm’s gear, replied, without missing a beat: “Why aren’t you wearing my kit?”
Almost as an apology on behalf of the people who have knocked him since he was a teenager, my vote for SJA Sportsman of the Year goes to Andy Murray.
- Who get’s your vote? SJA members are invited to submit their article, of around 500 words, on why they have chosen their Sportsman, Sportswoman or Team of the Year by email here
- Or consider the other leading candidates for the British Sports Awards here
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Thu Oct 24: SJA Lunch with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Fully booked
Tue Oct 29: SJA Masterclass with Andy Dunn. Click here to attend
Tue Nov 12: Laureus Lunch with All Blacks great Sean Fitzpatrick. Click here to book your place
Thu Dec 12: SJA 2013 British Sports Awards. Bookings now open. Click here for details
Tue Feb 25: SJA Masterclass with Des Kelly. For more information, click here
Mon Mar 24: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, Grand Connaught Rooms, London
Mon Apr 14: SJA Spring Golf Day: Croham Hurst GC, Surrey. Booking details to be announced
Tue May 20: SJA Masterclass with Janine Self. For more information, click here