Life

Andy Murray on childhood, success and the advice his daughter gave him

Tennis ace Sir Andy Murray discusses his career, what he learnt from Roger Federer and how he wishes he hadn't been so hard on himself.

Sir Andy Murray’s glittering career has seen him reach the pinnacle of tennis, with three grand slam titles and an Olympic gold medal to boot.

Here, in his Letter to my Younger Self, the former world number one tells The Big Issue what he’s learnt during his career, and why he’d still like to sit down with Sir Alex Ferguson for some life lessons.

By the time I was 16 I was really starting to think tennis was going to be my career. I started playing tennis when I was around four years old, mostly through my mum being a tennis coach and having a brother [top level doubles player Jamie] of similar age – there’s only 15 months difference between us.

We used to do everything together. It was really nice to have a brother so close in age. Of course we had fights and arguments, but we had great times as well.

We’re quite different personalities. When we’re together there’s a sort of natural order of things. Jamie, being the older one, grew up kind of dictating what we did – he would probably be a bit more bossy. And he’s probably a little bit more outgoing in general. I’m certainly more reserved when I meet new people. But we’re both very, very competitive.

The only worry my younger self really had was to do with my family. If your parents separate when you’re pretty young [Judy and William Murray separated when Andy was 10] that can be difficult. At that age you just want your family to be OK. So I did worry about that.

As a dad myself now I appreciate a lot more what our parents did for us as kids. They allowed us to go away abroad to train and pursue our dreams of having careers in tennis and that takes a lot of time and it’s an expensive sport.

If my kids were in that situation at 12 years old, telling us, “I want to leave, I want to go abroad”… I can imagine that must be very difficult for parents, and I probably wouldn’t want them to do it. But from my side of things as a teenager, those were some of the best years of my life.

I didn’t really feel I had a chance of doing something really good in tennis until I was about 18. I watched [Roger] Federer on the TV when I was young, and I took a lot of notes, coming up with strategies of what I would do if I was playing against him. Also [Rafael] Nadal, who was only one year older than me. and I’d already played against in juniors. So I could think, I know him, I’ve played against him, why couldn’t I do what he’s doing?

But I also knew, though I was a good junior, there were lots of top juniors who didn’t go on to do anything. It was only when I started competing on the main tour and making finals of big events and performing well against some of the top players, I realised, yeah, I’ve got a real chance here.

If I wanted to really amaze the teenage me with one moment I’d probably tell him about winning Wimbledon for the first time [in 2013]. When I was a kid that was the tournament we watched on TV. We didn’t have Sky or the internet to watch the US Open or the Australian Open or any of those tournaments. But we watched Wimbledon on TV and when we were very young my mum took a bunch of Scottish kids in a mini-van to see it in real life. So if someone had told me when I was 16 I would win Wimbledon one day… well, I wouldn’t believe them. 

Day Thirteen: The Championships - Wimbledon 2016
Murray after his second Wimbledon triumph in 2016, when he beat Milos Raonic in the final. Photo: by Julian Finney/Getty Images

If I’m honest, the whole experience of that first Wimbledon win was a strange one emotionally. It’s difficult to explain – you would think that winning something like that, achieving your dream, you’d be filled with joy and happiness. But you know, I just felt a bit numb.

I was unbelievably tired from the match, and I had to go to the Champions’ Dinner, being pushed and pulled in all different directions down to what brand of suit I was going to wear, things I couldn’t care less about.

All these people arguing and fighting over that stuff, and I was like, what’s going on here? I don’t care about any of this stuff, I just want to be my friends and family.

After that I was exhausted and I went to a hotel with my wife. I turned on the TV – BBC One, they were talking about my match. I turned to ITV and I was on the news, and I turned to Sky and I was on the news. The whole thing was just overwhelming. You couldn’t get away from it. I just found that an odd feeling, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as you might expect of someone who’d dedicated their life to trying to achieve something and finally done it.

My second win in 2016 – by then I knew what I wanted to do, and I just had a great night with my family and friends. 

I wouldn’t say overall I was that bothered by [the persona the media gave me]. The stuff about hating the English was probably the most annoying part.

I would have banter with my friends when the England football team lost, but all the people I’ve worked with throughout my career have been English, I live in England, my wife’s English and all of my children were born in England. So that stuff was a bit annoying but I didn’t spent a lot of time worrying about it.

The stuff about me being boring, that didn’t bother me. My team and family and friends know I’m very sarcastic and very dry. People who don’t know me, who believe that I’m a boring and straight person, might not get me if I try to make a joke. But that’s OK, I can understand that. 

There have been situations I wish I’d made more of. I’ve met Alex Ferguson a few times but there have always been lots of people around. I wish I’d had the opportunity to spend more time with him, because he’s a very special guy.

I would love to sit down and ask him lots of questions to help me deal with certain situations and with pressure and how to stay motivated. Yeah, that would be someone I could learn a lot from.

It’s difficult to balance having four children and competing at the highest level.

If I was speaking to the younger me I’d tell him to prepare himself better for what sport and life will throw at him. Throughout my career I’ve had lots of setbacks and lots of difficult losses. I always try to use that as motivation, as a positive.

Even when things weren’t going well, like losing the Wimbledon final [in 2012 to Roger Federer] – I was gutted, I was so upset about that. But I kept trying and kept fighting to improve myself. But I could have been better prepared for the difficult moments, rather than just reacting to them when they happen.

I should have talked more about those things before they happened. I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself during my career and allowed myself to enjoy the good moments more.

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It’s difficult to balance having four children and competing at the highest level. There are tonnes and tonnes of positives though and I love being a dad and being around my kids.

When I lost at Wimbledon this year I got home and my daughter said, “Daddy, you’re home because you lost another tennis match.” And I said, yeah, I did lose. And she said,  “When you lose something you should you try and try again.”

So yeah, I lost at Wimbledon, but then I spoke to my kid and she gave me the advice that I give to her when she’s upset. So that was nice.

If I could go back to re-live any period of time it would be when I moved to Barcelona when I was 15. The two years I spent over there, I just absolutely loved it. Not that I necessarily wanted to be away from my family but I always really enjoyed travelling and being away from home and having that freedom.

In Barcelona I was doing what I’d always wanted to do as a kid, getting to play tennis, learn a new culture, make new friends, be outdoors in the sun almost the whole time. When it was time to come home I called my parents and said, please can I stay for another two weeks. I’d been away for about three months and hadn’t seen my family or my friends, but I was just having such a great time.

Obviously as you get older, you have responsibilities and worries. But when I was 15 I had no pressures, not a care in the world about anything. I just wanted to stay there as long as I could. 

This interview is from the exclusive Connor Brothers takeover of The Big Issue, out now. Get the special edition, full of custom artwork and sure to be a collector’s item, from your local vendor or from The Big Issue Shop

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