Veronica Lee: Murray doesn't deserve this sniping

There's thinly veiled prejudice in the criticisms of our top tennis player

Share
Related Topics

As he's in with a good shout of winning Wimbledon, this seems a good time to deal with the Andy Murray question: why do so many people persist in disliking him? Well, of course, Brits love a plucky loser ("Come on, Tim!") so someone actually winning a grand slam event might jar our collective joy in being a bit rubbish at everything, but mostly I sense there's thinly veiled prejudice at the heart of it.

Let me list some words used – both in the media and by fans – to describe Murray: moody, grumpy, dour, unsmiling, surly, arrogant. Why don't they just say "chippy bloody Scot" and be done with it? Most of the UK media and the tennis-going public live in the south-east of England, far enough away from Scotland to feel safe about crudely stereotyping its inhabitants.

And should Murray actually win Wimbledon this year, I guarantee there will be carping: "Oh but he only won because Rafael Nadal wasn't playing," the snipers will say. Nonsense: Murray beat Nadal in last year's US Open semi-finals and twice again more recently, and he has a 6/2 win/loss record against Roger Federer.

In addition, he has won 12 ATP titles, is ranked No 3 in the world and is considered by his peers to be capable of winning a slam. That's already an astonishing achievement in a country that struggles to develop tennis talent and whose last major winner was Virginia Wade in 1977. In the men's game, as we are constantly reminded, you have to go back to the third of Fred Perry's Wimbledon titles in 1936.

I've seen no evidence of it, but so what if he were arrogant – wouldn't you be if you were No 3 in the world at something? Murray is only 22, for goodness sake – I shudder to recall how full of ourselves my friends and I were at that age, and we couldn't win a game of tiddlywinks. And he may be a typical young dude in that he is a sports geek and loves boys' toys such as his PlayStation and Wii, but in press conferences I have found him to be polite, friendly and (not a given with sports stars) engaged with the wider world.

And I like that he's respectful to women (as evidenced in his relationships with his mother, Judy, and girlfriend, Kim Sears), values older people (he's close to his grandparents), recognises he has much to learn from more experienced players (he regularly calls Tim Henman for advice) and is popular with fellow pros (Federer and Nadal both speak warmly of him). And while others quibbled, he quickly agreed to a renegotiation of his RBS sponsorship package when the bank faced collapse.

No tennis writer worth reading could criticise Murray as a player – but other sections of the media are only now, five years into his senior career, coming round to acknowledging that he's a decent human being, too. I am sure that's because he has refused to supply an insatiable press pack with soapy stories about his parents' break-up when he was 11, his relationship with Sears and events at Dunblane in March 1996.

And then there's his sense of humour – dry, sardonic, slyly sarcastic – for which there should be a typeface called "ironic" to alert readers that they are supposed to laugh at an utterance rather than take po-faced offence at it. The line he wrote on his blog about supporting any team but England in the 2006 football World Cup really was a joke.

Maybe we should blame P G Wodehouse for a very funny line that has come to characterise some Sassanachs' view of the Scots: "It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine".

Well, it certainly isn't true of Andy Murray, and we should celebrate a truly talented sportsman and a really nice guy, however he fares at Wimbledon.

React Now

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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Medical staff members burn clothes belonging to patients suffering from Ebola, at the French medical NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Monrovia  

The reality of Ebola: Buckets of chlorine in the streets, and no one shakes hands any more

Patrick Jamiru
Good2Go is the sexual consent app  

Good2Go: It's proper Sex and Relationships Education that will help end assault, not an iPhone app

Sian Norris
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?