My Big Mouth: Andy Murray ain’t miserable, just misunderstood

By Phil Jones

Andy Murray is undoubtedly a British sporting great.

The first Brit to reach the Wimbledon final in 74 years.

The first Brit to win a tennis gold at the Olympics in 104 years.

The first Brit to win a grand slam in 76 years.

But, despite the Scot’s stellar 2012, you still couldn’t call Murray a national sporting treasure in the mould of Bradley Wiggins or Jess Ennis.

His address to the nation, having been beaten by Roger Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final, went some way to endearing himself to the British public.

But should it really take a sportsman breaking down in front 15,000 people and millions more on television to make people see he really cares about what he does?

The perennial complaint about Murray is that he doesn’t smile enough, is too surly in interviews and is just downright boring.

But what are we judging him on?

He is an audaciously talented tennis player, mixing it with the best in the world during perhaps the strongest era the game has ever seen.

What more do we want from our sporting stars?

Just because he isn’t cracking jokes in all his press conferences and doesn’t have a perma-smile smeared across his face, is that reason to dislike him so much?

Much of the ill will towards him stems from a throwaway comment seven years ago.

In a pre-Wimbledon media opportunity with his predecessor as sole British tennis hope, Tim Henman, Murray was asked whom he would be supporting in the upcoming World Cup.

Jokingly – yes, he is capable of such a thing – he uttered the words that have been a millstone round his neck ever since: “Anyone but England.”

This was enough to turn the tub-thumping mass of England football fans against him, and with it the support of the vocal English sports fan.

Ever since, social media sites and comment sections fill with negative posts whenever the 25-year-old has a sniff of success or falls agonisingly at the final hurdle.

As a nation we are usually so good at getting behind our sporting heroes – and failures, come to think of it.

Tim Henman enjoyed years of adoration from the British public for his comparatively average career on the tennis tour.

But then he was polite, smiled for the cameras, and was inoffensive enough to carry a wide appeal.

Murray on the other hand is genuine – he clearly doesn’t like the press obligations that come with being a global sports star and makes little attempt to hide it.

If you talk to anyone who knows him well enough though, they will tell you quite what a dry sense of humour he has away from the cameras.

This sense of humour has started to emerge a little the more successful he has become, and no wonder really.

He clearly has such high standards for himself that when he loses, he inevitably won’t be happy and up for a laugh.

But when he wins, which he has been doing a bit more of late, it is no surprise we start to see him smile and loosen up.

Would people really prefer a raft of Tom Daleys and Ellie Simmonds giggling and smiling away, media-trained to within an inch of their life?

One cannot help but respect Daley and Simmonds for their achievements despite everything life has thrown at them.

However, their incessant cheeriness in front of a camera really grates on me and just seems so false.

Give me Andy Murray and Mark Cavendish any day.

Yes, they may be surly. Yes, they may ruffle a few feathers, or even leave you numb after another bland interview.

But at least you know that when they are happy they are genuinely happy, and when they flat-bat questions it’s because they really can’t be doing with the hassle of another boring interview.

Andy Murray is one of Britain’s all-time great sportsmen, and we should celebrate him so, instead of complaining because he can’t force a smile on demand.

Picture courtesy of VadimK, with thanks.

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