Andy Murray doesn’t need our love – get used to it

It is the behaviour of someone bitten by the tabloids once too often

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“This one is for Ivan,” he added, prompting a rare smile from Lendl’s usual Easter Island visage. As David Cameron clapped from the front of the Royal Box, Alex Salmond unfurled the saltire behind him. This is the true sign of Andy Murray’s success: everyone wants to claim him.

Murray has also pulled off another coup, one almost as impressive as winning Wimbledon. He is one of the world’s most recognisable sportsmen, but he has withdrawn from the public view. We still gaze at him, but he refuses to give us anything to look at, away from the tennis court. Even when he gives interviews, he doesn’t try to ingratiate himself with an audience.

Murray is that rarest creature: a celebrity who doesn’t need us. He needs to win. He sometimes needs the spectators to help him raise his game. But he doesn’t need us, the public. He doesn’t need our love, and it’s taken us a while to get used to that. We’ve called him dour when he is merely deadpan, because it’s hard to accept that he can live without our approval.

Look back at his first tournament win and the papers were full of photographs of him kissing his girlfriend. Now, he goes along the line of his team, hugging her with the rest of them. He has removed their relationship from the public sphere: no mean feat for a global sports star, as the presence of Victoria Beckham at Sunday’s match reminded us.

Even when he and Kim Sears are interviewed together, they parade nothing but their ordinariness, laughing as they remember the paparazzi giving up on them when it became clear that they went out to walk their dogs rather than to go clubbing.

The Champions’ Ball will probably be the first booze he’s drunk all year: he had a couple of glasses of champagne on the plane home from winning the US Open last year, and found himself brushing his teeth with face cream. Even at his craziest, having won Olympic gold and his first Grand Slam in a matter of weeks, he was doing nothing racier than brushing his teeth on a flight.

It’s the behaviour of someone bitten by the tabloids once too often: a silly joke about football has been held against him for years, as though we didn’t all say dumb things as teenagers. We have even been encouraged to hate his mother, who has been branded as “pushy” because she clearly loves her kids to win. Unlike all those other tennis parents, presumably, many of whom make Judy Murray look like she believes it’s the taking part that counts.

Murray has concentrated his energy on winning matches instead of winning popularity contests. And, unsurprisingly, we love him all the more because of it.

www.nataliehaynes.com

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