I think I'm as Scottish as it gets, and I've been a tennis fanatic all my life, often a sportswriter during my journalistic career. So why is it that I'd walk across the Kalahari desert, in a fur coat if necessary, to watch Roger Federer play. And yet I wouldn't dream of sleeping in a tent outside Wimbledon to watch my compatriot Andy Murray.
Harsh, you may say. Well maybe it's time somebody got harsh with Andy. Ivan Lendl toughened him up, shots and tactics-wise -- and the Wimbledon and Olympic titles are proof of that -- but Andy needs a lot more than help on the court. He's our boy, our Next Great Hope, Scottish north of the border and British down south. When he plays, we fly the flag, the Saltire or the Union Jack, the latter being the one his and my family fought under during two world wars.
Yet, in the blinkered nationalism of Murraymania, no TV commentators, and few sportswriters, dare say that Andy's antics have all the hallmarks of a spoilt brat, a mummy's boy -- "Mummy, I scraped my knee, kiss it better," as some kids at my old Scottish school used to say.
So far none of the UK media have felt the strength to go against the grain and criticize the Next Great Hope. If they don't, I can assure you he'll get worse. Like most sportsmen, Andy will take on board, media-wise, all that he reads, or all that's he's told by his "team." Human nature. So if "Team Murray" shields him from the truth, he is unlikely to get to where he is capable of being.
This is not to belittle Andy's mum Judy, who has helped drive him to where he is and to where he might well be -- Number One in the world and multiple Grand Slam champion. As a Scot, nothing would give me greater pleasure if he gets his head right and reaches those heights.
And to be honest, Andy's performance, shot-wise, against Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open last Thursday was not that bad. The "Swiss Shadow" (always in the shadow of Federer) happened to hit his A-game. But it wasn't about tennis at Flushing Meadows that day. It was about how a Scottish lad could be in New York City and not only bore but alienate NYC tennis fans, not by his tennis but by his behaviour.
Those of us Scots who have visited NYC may have screamed many times in the streets but we were not representing anyone other than ourselves. Nor were we being paid megabucks at the time. Andy's behaviour against Wawrinka was everything we don't want to see in tennis. Wawrinka hit a genius winner and Murray looked as though he was in a horror movie and must claw off his own face. I doubt whether Andy would have done that against the greats whom he may well never emulate -- Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. Perhaps he felt his hysterics might intimidate the lower-ranked Wawrinka, also by changing from a white to red shirt, similar to Wawrinka's, for the final game (one can be fairly sure that was Ivan Lendl's last-ditch psychological ploy, not Murray's.) And Andy's Hitchcockesque scream after losing a set served only to do three things. 1. It perturbed even the noise-loving folks of New York City 2. It revealed that he needs more help with his head than with his shots or tactics and 3. It surely turned many British parents off buying their kids a tennis racquet. To be dubbed "Smashin' Andy" would probably have pleased Andy in his Dunblane days. But to get it as a multi-millionaire by smashing two racquets?
After the Olympics and his Wimbledon victory, our media raved about the "Murray Factor -- kids are swarming to tennis courts." Not from what I've seen. And they won't, unless Andy follows the example of players like Federer, who indeed smashed racquets when he was a teenager but developed into not only the most graceful and successful player of all time (so far) but the nicest and most diplomatic.
Andy, you will never be a Federer but then no-one else will. Showing your opponents that you're emotionally still a bit of a baby merely serves to encourage them. Be a man. Your own man. You're a tennis player, not a racing driver. You don't need "Team Murray," or Sean Connery, or Sir Alex or any of the other hangers-on. Go on to beat the other sluggers, Rafa and Novak, and surely all of Scotland and the U.K. will be behind you.