How I helped Andy Murray reach his glorious peak

History will record the influence of Lendl and others - but were it not for a chance encounter with this mega-fan things might have been oh so different

Share

When the torrent of books about this bedazzling sporting summer begins to flow, few will spare so much as a footnote for the heavyweight grudge match at Upton Park on July 14. More luminous achievements than David Haye’s knockout of Dereck Chisora were buried in obscurity beneath the avalanche of glory. Take Rory McIlroy’s facile romp to the US PGA title hours after the Olympics closing ceremony – a rapacious headline-grabber in any other year, but ignored amid all the melodrama much like Jeffrey Bernard’s foolishly timed death on the same day as Princess Diana’s.

Yet for this writer, the Upton Park mash-up sits atop the memorial pantheon beside Wiggo’s Tour de France, Mo’s double gold and the dénouement in the early hours of yesterday to five relaxing hours of tennis in New York. One hates to muscle in on another’s triumph on arguably tenuous grounds. But it was there in east London, that sodden Saturday night, that I informed Andy Murray, sitting ringside beneath a Cellophane sheet, of the overwhelming feeling in my bones that he would win the 2012 US Open.

Although (off-court) the sweetest and most courteous of young men – “Hi, I’m Andy,” he helpfully introduced himself, with the sickly fixed smile of the stalkee cornered by a star-struck sea monster – he didn’t seem wildly impressed with the prediction; and even less so with the ensuing advice about how to destroy a seemingly indestructible Serb. Had he not hurriedly turned his back, he might have explained that taking the advice would induce the novel umpirical announcement: “Code violation, Tasering Mr Djokovic, warning Mr Murray.”

Yet who can say for certain that the memory of howsoever deranged a megafan’s faith in him didn’t make the difference as he entered the fifth set? Grinner Lendl, mother Judy and others in the entourage also take some credit for bolstering his self-belief. But publishers wishing to bid for a memoir, on the lines of Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall, may contact me via this newspaper.

In the event, Murray didn’t deploy the Taser, though you might not have guessed from the cramping, wobbly-legged Novak Djokovic of the closing games. How the spent-looking Scot found the mental strength, after having his two-set lead torn from him by the most ferociously resilient figure in sport, I will never understand. Nor will he. If the closely contested Grand Slam final has no equal for sustained, excruciating stress, no tennis player can ever have endured the pressure Murray must have felt as he came out for that final set, knowing he would never recover from the disappointment and resulting sense of accursedness if he lost it.

 I cannot honestly describe watching this match as an unmitigated delight for the co-occupant of the sofa and myself. This friend and I have followed Murray obsessively for seven years, barely missing a televised match since he emerged at 18 as a potential talent for the ages. When he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to reach this year’s Wimbledon final, I sobbed down the phone at my friend: “God, I love that boy. I’ve watched him grow up, he’s like a son to me.” A delicate cough announced the presence of a startled biological son. Despite being reassured that, having had him for 15 years and Andy for only seven, he is my firstborn, he hasn’t forgiven me yet, and never will. But what’s a chap to do in the face of overwhelming quasi-paternal pride?

There is nothing you wouldn’t do for your pseudo-kids, of course, and as the momentum shifted to Djokovic in the third set, our “What would you give for the US Open now?” debate took in first a limb, then a kidney, and eventually one of each with a house thrown in. Late in the fourth, the match apparently lost, the bargaining took a turn to include the passive end of a coupling with Eric Pickles. “Are you telling me you’d do that for the title?” I asked my friend. “I’d do that,” came the reply, “for a break point.”

The Communities Secretary was no more needed, to the relief of all parties, than the Taser. In a manner that just a few months ago would have seemed like a treasonous denial of national sporting character, the boy – our boy – did what great champions do. As he stared into the abyss, instead of developing vertigo he soared above his previous limitations and decisively raised his game.

And with that, on a note of indecent perfection, endeth the Summer of Sport. Murray should now win several more majors, as Mo will win more medals and Wiggo more Tours, but the confluence of outlandish heroism under an incalculable weight of a ravenous country’s expectations will never be repeated.

So the time comes for the dreamy, floaty bubble of delirium to be popped – and if the England football team failed to drag us down to terra firma with a performance of classically monumental mediocrity last night, a lonely nation will turn its eyes to McIlroy and the Ryder Cup team in the hope of a crushing defeat in America later this month. We’re all cried out, quite frankly, and the nerves will stand no more.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor