How Andy Murray won us over, from 'sulky' and 'dour' to weeping hero
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How Andy Murray won us over, from 'sulky' and 'dour' to weeping hero

Over the years, he has been called sulky, dour and surly - and those are just the insults I can repeat in a family newspaper. But anyone who saw Andy Murray announce his impending retirement at the end of last week would have been hard pushed to find him anything other than nakedly human.

Britain's Andy Murray wipes tears from his face during a press conference at the Australian Open.

Britain's Andy Murray wipes tears from his face during a press conference at the Australian Open.Credit:AP

Murray arranged a press conference in Melbourne, assembled the world's media - and then had to leave the room after being asked the first question: "How are you feeling?" Surely he must have expected that one.

At one point, he was so overcome that he bowed his head for almost a minute, wiping away tears. It was a vision of a broken man - one who has worked tirelessly for most of his life, chasing a dream, and has had it snatched away at just 31. I can't imagine how crushing it must be to have your body retire before your mind.

I have been a diehard Murray fan from day dot - frankly, looking over my articles, I'm surprised he hasn't taken out a restraining order. My childhood heroes were all tennis players: Sampras, Becker, Agassi. I bleed green, white and purple, so I was always going to fall for the next British talent.

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But I'm aware that many have taken longer to warm to Murray - if at all.

The joke goes that it was only when he cried on Centre Court in 2012, having been defeated in his first Wimbledon final by Roger Federer, that Murray finally stopped being Scottish and became British. That opening of the floodgates tugged at heartstrings. Gone was the emotionless teenager from Dunblane, replaced by a vulnerable man who desperately wanted to win. It was the first time Murray had shown any vulnerability, and we fell head-over-heels for it.

How overjoyed we were when he finally won Wimbledon, the very next summer - one of those "Do you remember where you were?" moments.

Still, there were naysayers. Whispers started that he was now, in fact, too emotional. The poor chap couldn't win... well, apart from 45 singles titles, three grand slam trophies, two Olympic gold medals and the Davis Cup.

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And when he hired Amelie Mauresmo in 2014 - he remains the only top male player to have been coached by a woman - an insider told me the locker room chatter on tour was all about the "feminisation" of Murray's game.

Not least because he had just penned a blog, in which he spoke out against the criticism directed at Mauresmo. "Have I become a feminist? Well, if being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man, then yes, I have," he wrote.

To which I say: swoon. So many men pay lip service to feminism. Not Murray. He has repeatedly tackled sexism - most famously after he lost to Sam Querry at Wimbledon in 2017. "Sam is the first American to reach the semi-final of a Slam since 2009..." the interviewer said. Murray chipped in without missing a beat: "Male player."

He has been an outspoken supporter of the women's game, from equal pay to scheduling on show courts. Simply, he champions women, hires them and calls out the barriers facing them. Little wonder he has been hailed as a standard-bearer for equality.

Of course, Murray has spent his life surrounded by women - he was close to both his grandmothers, his mother got him into tennis, and he is now married, with two daughters. His wife, Kim - who he has been with since they were teenagers - has stood by his side during on-court tantrums and meltdowns.

And there have been a few. Emotion has sometimes got the better of him; I saw that myself in 2016, when I was lucky enough to be courtside when Murray won his second Wimbledon title - covering his head with his towel and bursting into tears.

But that same emotion - which was so raw this week - has long been his secret weapon. He has used it to win grand slams. He has channelled it into challenging injustices. Now, he has laid it bare. How sad that it took his emotional farewell for Sir Andy Murray to show the world his best side.

Telegraph, London

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