From the terror of Dunblane to triumph at Wimbledon

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Few of the spectators at Wimbledon yesterday would have been aware of the poignancy of a victory achieved by the promising Scottish teenager on Court No 4. Andrew Murray's defeat of his American opponent - his first win in the boys' singles tournament - signalled an important milestone for the 17-year-old.

Few of the spectators at Wimbledon yesterday would have been aware of the poignancy of a victory achieved by the promising Scottish teenager on Court No 4. Andrew Murray's defeat of his American opponent - his first win in the boys' singles tournament - signalled an important milestone for the 17-year-old.

Andrew was a pupil at a primary school in the Scottish town of Dunblane, when, on 13 March 1996, Thomas Hamilton walked into the school and shot dead 16 children and their teacher.

Eight-year-old Andrew was on his way to the gym when the shootings began. He remembers being herded into the headmaster's study to hide with classmates as the horror of the morning's events unfolded.

Some of Andrew's friends lost brothers and sisters in the shooting and, in common with everyone in the community, he struggled to make sense of it. Although he claims the massacre has not had a lasting effect on his life, it is the one subject he remains reluctant to talk about.

His mother Judy, the Scottish national coach, says the teenager, when entering a tournament, often lists his home town as Stirling rather than Dunblane in an attempt to escape the connection which still exists in the minds of most people.

Like many of Dunblane's coming-of-age generation, Andrew and his older brother Jamie, who was nine at the time, were too young to fully understand the events of that day.

Both boys knew Hamilton - they had even attended boys' clubs organised by the killer - and their parents certainly knew some of the families who lost children that day.

"It was a strange time because some of my friends lost brothers and sisters," Andrew has said.

But despite the fact that the brother of one of his best friends died, Andrew claims the tragedy has not left a mark and says that he, and the rest of the community, have done their best to move on.

Yesterday, as Tim Henman waited to play Mark Philippoussis on Centre Court, the teenager showed just how far he is planning to go.

Andrew, who spends six hours each day playing tennis and working on his personal fitness, is now enjoying a blossoming career.

Ranked No 2 junior in the world last December, he built on that success yesterday by defeating Mykyta Kryvonos, an American qualifier, to secure his place in the next round.

Andrew was the youngest competitor when he made his debut in the Wimbledon junior event in 2002. He lost in the first round then, and again last June, which made his success yesterday all the more encouraging. "I didn't think I played my best match, but it was a good feeling to win," he said. "It's only my second tournament in eight months, so I was just glad to get through."

Andrew's physical problems began at the US Open juniors last September, when he reached the quarter-finals.

"I had a niggling knee injury for about two or three months," he said.

"Then I got an MRI scan in December, which showed I had a bipartite patella. It was very inflamed. I couldn't bend my knee at all. I had to take four or five months off, doing absolutely nothing.

"I only started playing again in the last couple of months."

Coached by fellow countryman, Leon Smith, the teenager has spent the past two years based at a tennis academy in Barcelona run by two Spanish former tour players, Emilio Sanchez and Sergio Casal. Now he alternates his training between the academy in Barcelona and the Lawn Tennis Association's coaching headquarters at Queen's Club in west London.

"If I'm going to play some tournaments on clay," he said, "then I'll go over to Barcelona for maybe two or three weeks to prepare. But I'm also going to be in London a bit more now as well."

Andrew plans to play in the junior event at the US Open next September and is otherwise concentrating on establishing a world ranking on the mainstream professional tour.

"I watch Tim Henman a lot," he said. "It must be really difficult for him, because every year the press put so much pressure on him. But he deals with it so well. I'd love to be doing what Tim's done, staying in the top 10 for such a long time, and making the semi-finals of Wimbledon four times. I want to get into the top 10 in the world, then possible win a Grand Slam championship."

He was able to study Henman at first-hand earlier this year when he travelled as a non-playing member of the British Davis Cup team for a match in Luxembourg, to gain experience of a big match atmosphere.

"I watched everything," he said. "Tim was a really nice guy, good help, gave me a few tips."

Enjoying such illustrious company will no doubt provoke a swell of pride among Andrew's school friends. As they continue to rebuild their lives after the tragic events of 1996, they will no doubt be cheering him on as continues his quest for success at Wimbledon this week.

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