Andy Murray: What’s The Racquet About?

FRANCESCA HILL asks what all the hype is about with Andy Murray.

Put down your Union Jacks. Step away from your Twitter. Wipe that face paint off your cheeks. 

Most of us never watch any tennis outside this very unique two-week period once a year. So why do all but the most working-class of Brits go momentarily insane and pretend they’ve been swinging a racket continuously since the age of eighteen months?

I never understood Henmania. And I don’t get Murraymania either.

I’m sorry to have to break it to the many English people who are busy pretending desperately that he’s one of us, but Andy Murray is Scottish. And that’s probably how he sees himself, rather than British. British is one of those elusive concepts that conveniently appears and disappears depending on whether the English recognise we need to borrow some talent from elsewhere (no to football; yes to athletics; no to rugby; yes to tennis).

Andy Murray: man of the people or solitary Scot?

At this time of year, my mother starts spouting match statistics and comparing “tennis greats” from bygone eras. A friend who I find it hard to imagine even wearing trainers feels so strongly about Murray’s defeat that she is unfollowing anyone on Twitter who says a word against him. Everyone from Doctor Who to Sir Steve Redgrave is called upon to comment on a sport they freely admit to knowing nothing about (Why Sue? Why? What is this adding?) and Ed Miliband feels the need to congratulate Murray publicly on his performance to prove he’s in touch with the people.

Murray is a talented tennis player, few doubt that. He probably also deserves to win a grand slam, after a number of unfortunate defeats. But why does he inspire a kind of sycophantic hysteria that has not been seen since the death of Princess Diana?

I don’t think it’s patriotism. There are lots of sports out there, and few national representatives attract the same level of adoration. Terrestrial TV’s relative lack of interest in the other grand slams suggests that it’s not a love of tennis either.

The answer is reality television. A footballer will be on screen for a small proportion of a ninety-minute match. A tennis player can be watched continuously for hours as he battles with his demons, every sigh and smile analysed in great detail by a commentary box full of has-beens. We see his face with every point won and lost; a roller-coaster of human emotion that leaves Big Brother and Made in Chelsea languishing in the shade.

Tennis gives us triumph, humiliation, anger, sadness and joy. When the loser cries, we know what we are watching is far more real than any of the weekly screaming and sobbing on TOWIE.

Britain loves Andy Murray not because we love tennis, but because we love television.

  • Cobbledick

    Disagree

  • bored

    I don't think British is an "elusive concept". Britain is a geographical term whereas Scotland is a political one.

    • Genius Geographer

      Umm, Scotland is also a geographical term. See the big bit just north of England on your map? That's Scotland. I may be getting a degree in colouring in, but at least I know what I'm colouring.

      • true pedant

        *sigh* that was tiresome… i can't even be bothered to point out what @bored meant by "geographical" and "political", because you are clearly too dense.

  • <3 for Frankie

    Proud that you managed to get the word "Union" into the first sentence. Easter 2011 – never forget :'(

  • tempz

    "but Andy Murray is Scottish. And that’s probably how he sees himself, rather than British."

    have you read or listened to any of his interviews? he's a quarter english after all and he's playing for GB & NI in the olympics?

    such incompetent journalism.

  • hmmm…

    No

  • What an Anticlimax

    this article is.

  • Don'tFeedTheTro

    This is so, so very bad. Nice that you had a moment of inspiration and followed it through with an article though. Thanks for that. I have around 50 better insights every time I shower.

    • Clareite

      You arrogant sod. Think you can do better? Prove it.

      • Another Clareite

        It's better to write no article at all than to write an article this clueless. Don'tFeedTheTroll has already done better.

    • trollfood

      you have 50 penises?

  • maybe you shouldnt

    assume everyone else has such a fleeting interest in sport

    • Realist

      They do though on the whole. Granted, I know a couple of people who actually watch other tournaments, but the majority of Wimbledon enthusiasts couldn't give a crap for the other 50 weeks of the year.

  • LJC

    Tennis is massive – ATP, WTA and Grand Slam included – your showing your ignorance in not paying attention to just how extensively the sport and it's incredible athletes are followed.

    Andy is a credit to tennis – you've got no idea how much he cares about being a champion for himself, his team, his family and his country: Great Britain.

    He's done an amazing job this year and I firmly believe that if he isn't the 2012 US Open Champion, he's going to be a Grand slam winner in 2013.

    • err

      since when was Great Britain a country?

      • Murray Fan

        Since the interchangeable nature of 'Great Britain' and the 'United Kingdom'. Why does everyone here have to be a smart-arsed know-it-all?

        • colouring in

          they're not usually interchangeable:

          GB = England, Scotland, Wales
          UK= England, Scotland, Wales, NI, and all the overseas territories like the Falklands

          GB seems to be more of a cultural/social concept (and to a lesser extent sporting), while UK is pretty much entirely political.

          And we're all "smart-arsed know-it-all"s because it's an anonymous comments section. Furthermore, an anonymous comments section comprised of Cambridge students. Go figure.

      • Superior pedant

        In tennis, mainland British players compete for "Great Britain" and players from the Republic of Ireland compete for "Ireland". Northern Irish players can choose who to compete for. So technically, in Tennis terms, Great Britain is the correct way to refer to Andy Murray's country.

        If you must correct people, correct people correctly.

    • Grammar Girl

      "*your* showing your ignorance in not paying attention to just how extensively the sport and *it's* incredible athletes are followed"

      Priceless. Do you do Land Ec?

      • true pedant

        *damn* she beat me to it again…

  • Poor Choice of Sport

    It's a shame that while the whole country seem to be embroiled in this so called 'Murray mania', the incredible successes of British athletes such as those in Team Sky in the Tour de France go relatively unnoticed. The BBC Sport website doesn't even have a cycling tab during the TdF, despite the high probability of Bradley Wiggins being the first ever British winner.

    • Wiggo

      Agree.

      Maybe not in this country but globally cycling is a much bigger deal than most other sports. The TdF is the third most watched sporting event in the world after the Olympics and the World Cup, and the TdF runs every year.

      Its also more entertaining than watching two blokes smack a ball back and forth.

      • Well

        Again the issue is in rights-holding. The BBC isn't going to promote a sport which ITV airs exclusively. If the BBC were to get the rights, I'm sure the F1-effect would set in and all-of-a-sudden everyone would give it a chance.

  • Perhaps

    we should CELEBRATE things like wimbledon which are capable of uniting huge swathes of Britons, rather than taking such a cynical attitude? It is compelling viewing – but also something which all Britons feel some sense of ownership towards – and remarkably accessible, with ground tickets allowing thousands to watch it live for a small cost.

  • Too true

    England is too reluctant to accept its mediocrity in many sports. I can't suggest a solution, but adopting a Scot as your national tennis hero is probably one of the more embarrassing attempts.

  • GUEST

    "We see his face with every point won and lost"

    Well, we would if the television did not constantly show the audience all the time. Constantly being shown the spouses/family/&c. is tedious enough, but seeing Boris just ruined it.

    All the same, it was a brilliant match, just as riveting as last year's Nadal vs Djokovich. Federer is definitely a most deserving winner.

    • Although…

      an HD shot of Kate Middleton is definitely more interesting than a hairy grimacing Scot.

  • My two cents

    Tennis is an individual sport and nationality shouldn't come into it. Is it really a testament to the greatness of British sport if Andy Murray wins a grand slam? Well, no, not really, since I'm pretty sure you'd have to go down pretty far down the rankings to find another British person. Besides, Murray in many ways became the player he is today at the Sánchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, and his coach is Czech.

    So yeah, if you watch tennis, just support the player who you most like, for whatever reason that may be. I am proudly British but I was supporting Federer in the final.

    • Brit

      Surely the same argument works in a team game just with more players. In supporting British sport you support British people

  • classic

    Tab in the holidays

  • Anon

    Am I the only one who loves Andy Murray's don't give a fuck attitude? What a hero, just a miserable Scottish bastard ploughing the courts of Wimbledon.

  • You are a

    wierdo bruv