The undisputed champ of the year: Andy Murray on a little cup he won for some tennis match…
Andy Murray owned 2013. No man had an achievement that has caused such a mass outpouring of emotion. That last, quite unbelievable game as Murray fluffed three Championship points then somehow dragged himself back to victory, didn’t just cause clenched fists and blind panic on Centre Court, in living rooms, pubs and parks that hot July day – the nation was put on the rack. And, since we live through our sportsmen, we all won.
It was an unforgettable performance, and Murray is now simply a legend. It wasn’t 77 years of hurt, it was 77 years of jokes; British tennis players were tragi-comic underdogs at best. They’d never been winners. However, 26-year-old Murray didn’t just win Wimbledon. Oh no. He also won our reader vote for the ShortList Icon Of The Year. It’s not up to us to say which was the bigger achievement…
Anyway, we talked to the legend, the winner, the owner, about his year, and yes, he really is a smart, funny man, too. Give him a standing ovation…
You’ve won our Icon Of The Year award. Does this feel better than winning Wimbledon?
[Laughs] It’s hard to compare such illustrious and respected titles, but it’s a great feeling to have both titles at the same time, that’s for sure.
Our readers voted for this award in droves. How has your public reaction been since winning Wimbledon? You’ve achieved true legend status now…
It’s been great, although it’s all calmed down a bit now, which I’m happy about. The days after the final were pretty intense, to say the least. I think I managed 42 TV interviews in one morning. It was a great feeling to be able to finally win and make lots of people happy and proud, and to finally end all those years of disappointment.
You’re recovering from back surgery – how long could you have feasibly played on for?
It was a very difficult decision. My back is something that has been giving me problems for the past 18 months or so, and because the tennis calendar is so busy it’s often hard to find time to fix things properly, so I had been managing the pain. The grass courts are much more forgiving on the body than hard courts, so after the US Open, and then the clay at the Davis Cup, it was obvious it wasn’t going to fix itself, so the decision was made to take some time off and get the problem fixed.
What box sets or computer games did you indulge in during your recovery?
Just before I had my surgery, the new Pro Evolution Soccer was released, so I have been playing a lot of that. I have also been playing the new Grand Theft Auto. I haven’t been watching that much TV, but I am a big Homeland fan, so I have been enjoying the new episodes over the past few weeks.
Is Rafael Nadal’s resurgence worrying for you, given how good he can be, or do you relish the competition?
Rafa and I go back a long way, and we often play practice sets together, so it’s great to see him playing well. I haven’t had to play him yet, but once I’m fully recovered I’ll be looking forward to hopefully coming up against him, we’re both very competitive and we always have great matches. He’s a really nice guy as well.
Is there another player the top guys look at as the next big thing? Or is there one player in the Top 20 who could be in the Top 4 in a few years?
The Tour is so competitive now that it’s hard to single out one person. There is an emerging group of some really talented guys such as Grigor Dimitrov, Jerzy Janowicz and Milos Raonic, who have had strong runs during the season, and are all relatively early into their careers.
Now you’ve won two majors, do the other players see you as even more of a threat, and do you think you can usurp Novak Djokovic as No1 in the world?
I wouldn’t say people see me as more of a threat. I definitely feel more confident, and there is less pressure, but I still want to win more. I’m more focused on winning more tournaments and grand slams and then, hopefully, if I keep doing that the world No1 spot will eventually follow. But it’s not an easy task – there is plenty of hard work to get to the top.
Djokovic famously said that he could no longer be best friends with you because of your ever-growing rivalry on the court. Is that still the case, and to what extent has this affected your friendship?
Of course it’s difficult, we’re both professional sportsmen on the court, so it’s hard to view people as your friends when you’re playing matches, especially for some of the biggest prizes in the game. Off the court, we are still good friends, which is nice, as we have known each other since playing in the juniors.
Which was harder: winning the US Open or winning Wimbledon?
They are both very different tournaments on very different surfaces, so you can’t really compare the two. Winning the US Open was hard, as I had lost in four grand slam finals prior to that, so getting myself over the line to win my first slam brought me a great sense of relief. The Wimbledon title – I can barely remember the last game in that match…
What was the most nerve-wracking part of the Wimbledon final?
The first game is always difficult; the atmosphere on Centre Court was incredible from the very first point, which helped me settle quite quickly. Serving for the Championship was also a blur, especially after going 40-0 up and then facing break points, but I somehow found a way.
What was the big difference between your victory, and second place the previous year?
Winning the gold medal and US Open definitely gave me more belief in myself and my ability, so going into the tournament I was confident that I could win Wimbledon. My preparation this year was also very good, as I won Queen’s in the build up, so that also helped.
What was the most crucial point in the match?
When I was 2-4 down in the third set, I got a really important break to get back on serve, and then at 4-4 I broke again so that I was serving for the Championship.
Are you going to become sick of going through the match in such detail any time soon?
Is your coach Ivan Lendl as intimidating as he looks?
No, not at all. Ivan’s great. He smiles all the time during training, especially if someone is cracking a terrible or inappropriate joke, which happens quite a lot during practice.
Have you spoken to Sir Alex since his retirement, and has he made plans to come and watch you now he has spare time?
He came along to my semi-final at Wimbledon and we had a chat in the locker room for a good 30 minutes after the match. It’s always great to have him at my matches, he’s quite busy at the moment, but who knows? He’s come to watch me play in New York a few times, he was there when I won the US Open Final – he’s a pretty good omen, come to think of it.
We heard you used to be obsessed with Milkybar yoghurts. What’s your new junk-food vice?
[Laughs] Not so much the Milkybar yogurts any more, but I am partial to the occasional chocolate biscuit. I tend to eat pretty healthily throughout the year, though.
Is it true you can apparently eat up to 45 pieces of sushi in one sitting?
[Laughs] I don’t do it every time, but it’s a great recovery meal. I think I may have actually eaten more than that after a particularly big training day. I’m a big fan of spicy tuna rolls.
You once said you sold your Ferrari as you felt like a bit of a poser. Have you made any other misjudged purchases you can tell us about?
Not really, no. The car was great to drive, it’s just whenever I pulled up somewhere, everyone stared at me getting out, which I didn’t really enjoy. It also wasn’t the most practical of cars for popping down to the shops in.
Adidas has just unveiled a pair of trainers with your face on the tongue. Any other surprising places where your likeness has appeared?
During Wimbledon, a huge cake was made in the shape of my head, which was quite funny. Morrisons in Wimbledon was renamed Murrisons for two weeks during the tennis as well.
What is your big ambition for 2014?
The plan is to be fully fit in time for the Australian Open and hopefully go one better than last year.
If you could do any other job in the world, what would you do?
I always enjoyed playing football when I was younger and I had a trial for Rangers, so I might have tried that if tennis hadn’t worked out. I also love boxing, and watch it wherever I am in the world, but I wouldn’t be so keen to get in the ring. It would definitely be something in sport.
Seventy-Seven: My Road To Wimbledon Glory by Andy Murray is out now (Headline), £20