My favourite sports documentary – Andy Murray: Resurfacing

If you’re missing sport more than anything during lockdown, and replays, highlights and old commentaries don’t help, there are some great documentaries out there. Our writers have chosen their personal favourites, starting with Alex Pattle’s admiration for Olivia Cappuccini’s portrait of a British tennis great in adversity

Alex Pattle
Saturday 18 April 2020 08:12
Andy Murray: Resurfacing - trailer

I was too young to stay up for Andy Murray’s maiden Grand Slam triumph at the 2012 US Open.

Instead I woke up at intervals throughout the night to check on his progress against defending champion Novak Djokovic via the competition’s app. The process was clinical, but the experience was nonetheless emotional. It involved waking at 2am to ‘see’ the Scot secure the first set, then an hour or so later as he established a seemingly insurmountable two-set lead. The next time I forced my eyelids open by the slightest of margins to squint at my phone screen, Murray was in a decider at two sets all. The tennis gods were seemingly once again conspiring against the then 25-year-old.

The last time I stirred that night to load the US Open app, however, my bleary eyes were drawn to a tick by Murray’s name. It took me a second to process the reality. He’d won. He’d actually won.

Drifting back to sleep thereafter proved to be almost as tough a task as Murray finally earning a major trophy. My tired mind filled in the blanks until the following morning, when footage aired of Murray crouching in incredulity after Djokovic cannoned one last forehand return long following nearly five hours on court.

Watching this scene unfold again, this time in the Andy Murray: Resurfacing documentary, was just as moving to me as it was on that Tuesday morning in September of 2012.

That triumph in New York proved to be the pivotal moment in Murray’s career as the relieved Scot finally subverted the expectations of all of his greatest critics. For years the prevalent image of Murray was of a misanthropic runner-up who would never win a Grand Slam. Finding a sense of humour would be even more difficult than finding a worthy performance in the final of a major, many believed.

But if you knew, you knew. You knew his dry sense of humour. You knew not only that Murray would win a major, but that once he won one, he would win more. Never mind the Olympic gold medals and Davis Cup glory. What could never have been predicted, though, was his comeback from multiple career-threatening hip injuries and operations – the subject of Amazon Prime Video’s Resurfacing.

Directed with nuance and sensitivity by Olivia Cappuccini, the documentary offers a disarming glimpse into Murray’s physical toils and the mental conflict that ensued during his darkest hours battling injury.

“I was the number one tennis player in the world and I couldn’t walk anymore… I couldn’t put my socks on,” says Murray in one of the most poignant moments of the film. Another standout scene sees Murray talking to his phone camera following a 3am victory over Marius Copil in Washington in August 2018.

“I was really, really emotional at the end of the match, because I feel like this is the end for me,” Murray admits tearfully. “My body just doesn’t want to do it anymore and my mind doesn’t want to push through the pain barrier anymore…. I’m sorry that I can’t keep going.”

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Murray speaks candidly throughout the documentary

Murray, as the film conveys, did keep going. He kept going until the next setback, and then he pushed forward again, and so on: resist and repeat. Ultimately, whether on or off the court, the 32-year-old’s resilience is what makes him relatable, and that trait is captured so well in Resurfacing. Murray has fought on time and time again, despite failing in key moments more than his fellow members of the ‘big four’ – Roger Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, all of whom contribute kind words to the documentary in a reminder of the respect Murray commands from his peers.

The film also spends a healthy portion of its running time with Murray’s team, the affable collective that works on keeping him healthy. The Scot’s key companions are mischievous coach Jamie Delgado and physiotherapists Shane Annun and Mark Bender, with Annun standing out as a particularly warm character. Murray’s family feature, too – wife Kim, brother Jamie and mother Judy.

Of course, the scientific aspect of Murray’s undertaking is also significant, comprising cortisone injections to numb the aches in his joints, nerve ablations to prevent the transmission of pain signals, and an interaction with an X-ray machine that looks like it would be more likely to transform Murray into an armour-clad Sith Lord than shed any light on his hip troubles. There’s even some breakdance therapy along the way – one of a few experimental treatments introduced by eccentric American reconditioning specialist Bill Knowles.

There are intriguing scenes in which the thought process behind a daunting decision like a retirement, and the moments right before the corresponding announcement, are disclosed. There’s even footage of Murray watching The Inbetweeners over breakfast on the morning of what appeared to be his last match in January 2019.

In the documentary, Murray – a survivor of the 1996 Dunblane massacre – admits tennis has always been an escape, so being burdened simultaneously by the expectations and Schadenfreude of others could have easily detracted from his enjoyment of the sport.

Murray’s ability to overcome adversity has always set him apart

However, Murray’s love of the game has persisted through it all – through shifting public perception and physical pain. It is that passion that is central to his impossible comeback in Resurfacing.

Interestingly, for all the invasive treatments and periods of uncertainty, the tear-inducing moments do not come from Murray’s low points; the triumphs in spite of adversity are the moments that move you.

The only thing that could have made improved the viewing experience would have been a later release date – Resurfacing‘s November 2019 arrival came slightly too soon to include Murray’s Antwerp final triumph over Stan Wawrinka in October last year. That win marked his first singles title since returning to the tour last summer, and it’s clear from the documentary that Murray shouldn’t have been able to win a singles title at all, nor a doubles title, let alone a match after his hip resurfacing operation, which was not about a return to tennis but rather a better quality of life.

And that’s all you want for Murray after watching Resurfacing; the documentary provides such a warming insight into Murray’s life that seeing him step foot on court again seems little more than a bonus to knowing he can enjoy a comfortable life with his wife and two young children.

Murray is a three-time Grand Slam champion

The old, cynical perception of Murray was in large part caused by the fact that the media only ever seemed to be present in the most important moments, when Murray was coincidentally at his lowest. British sports fans were used to waking up to footage from New York of Murray trudging to the net while his opponent collapsed in triumph; they would use his traditional Sunday morning Australian Open final defeat as background entertainment during breakfast.

And while Resurfacing almost exclusively shows Murray at his lowest ebb, the reaction among all who have watched it has been one of compassion – in stark contrast to the criticism he faced in his lowest competitive moments.

Unlike films such as Diego Maradona and Senna, Resurfacing isn’t the story of a genius; it is the story of a grafter with a painful commitment to hard work, a boy who survived a school shooting and everything the sport of tennis could throw at his deteriorating body, only to come back as formidable as ever.

If you’re one of those people who still view the Scot as surly, you may as well test your resolve by watching Resurfacing. Its greatest quality is its ability to humanise Murray, and that’s why it’s my favourite documentary.

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