Editor of new Apple newsstand magazine, SW19 Members Club Magazine, Melina Harris, met Scottish sports journalist, Hugh MacDonald to find out about his new book, Murrayball, and what he believes is the key to our cover star from Dunblane’s unbelievable success in the golden era of tennis.
Biography of author, Hugh MacDonald
Hugh MacDonald was born in Glasgow 58 years ago. He is the Chief sports writer for The Herald newspaper in Scotland. He has been a journalist for 41 years. His hobbies are reading, travelling and watching sport and gets to do all three following Andy Murray.
An Extract from Murrayball by Hugh MacDonald
Murray knew in his early teenage years that he had to play regularly against better opponents. He was talking to Rafael Nadal, a contemporary at the top youth tournaments, when the Spaniard told the Scot he had been hitting with Carlos Moya, then one of the world’s best players. Murray had not so much outgrown Jamie but moved away from him in a physical sense.
The older brother was working with the LTA in England, but Andy opted for Barcelona. He could play full-time there, he could play against those contemporaries who wanted to break on to the ATP tour and in the benign weather of Catalonia he could play all day and most of the night. It was about winning, of course.
His audition was a trademark Murray moment. He played Emilio Sanchez, co-founder of the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona. Sanchez, brother of Arantxa, a former world No.1 in women’s tennis, was a three-time grand slam winner in doubles. He was 35. Murray was 13. The Scot beat him 6-3, 6-1.
“From the first moment when we played together I realised how difficult it would be to play against this kid when he was grown up, because he had these tools,” says Sanchez. “When you were forcing him to the side of the court he always seemed to have an answer for it. The best way for me to tell how good a player is, is to play with them. Then you see that they are able to come out with solutions.”
The full extract can be read in SW19 Members Club Magazine available for download here: http://itunes.apple.com/app/id631343671
1. What brought you to write a book on Andy Murray?
He is Scotland’s greatest sportsman in this era and he has an extraordinary story. Scotland producing a great tennis player is like Australia producing the best downhill skier in the world. We have no tradition of tennis beyond club level yet Andy has soared to the top in one of the most spectacular times for the sport. He comes from a small club in Dunblane with synthetic courts yet has won a grand slam. That is a story worthy of Hollywood.
2. What is your background to the sport and writing?
I have been a journalist for 41 years, covering everything from news to books to sport. I have been chief sports writer of the Herald for seven years but have followed Murray’s progress since he was a lad. I write about all sports, especially football, but have been gratified to follow Murray around the world as his star has soared and that of Scottish football has plummeted.
3. Why do you think Andy has done so well?
This is an invitation to a very long answer. But, to keep it brief, he had the talent, the drive and the capacity to persevere. He has all the shots, of course, but he has that ability to absorb the pain of defeat and then learn from it. His capacity for hard work is astonishing. His training regime is brutal and he eschews partying, drinking or anything that could affect his game. But what I most admire about him is his Scottish thrawnness. This is difficult to translate but it signifies someone who will not be deflected from his path.
4. Do you think training in Spain made the difference?
Spain was hugely significant. Remember, Andy at that age was hitting with club players while Rafa Nadal was exchanging blows with Carlos Moya. The move to Sanchez-Casal was important because it was the first step towards professional tennis and the first sign that Murray was willing to make sacrifices to progress. He is a quiet, shy lad who is close to his family. The move to Barcelona must have been difficult for him but he made it because he wanted to get to the top.
5. Do you think people have warmed to Andy over the past year and why?
Yes, I detect a thaw. He has always been popular in Scotland but I think the tears after defeat to Federer at Wimbledon and the subsequent gold medal at the Olympics showed Middle England that he is not the surly youth they erroneously believed him to be. The irony about Murray is that he is inordinately polite rather than rude.
6. Why do you think he’s often misunderstood by the British public?
Murray’s demeanour is very Scottish. His humour is so dry it could be used for kindling and his voice and demeanour give the wrong impression that he is brusque. The English support were also influenced by the ‘Anyone but England’ comment which was meant as a joke between him and his great friend Tim Henman.
7. Do you think he can win Wimbledon this year?
I believe he has an excellent chance at Wimbledon and can win it. He had Federer on the ropes in the early stages of last year’s final before the great man hit back. As always at SW19, Murray will be under great pressure, internal and external. But last year’s final and the gold-medal winning performance against Federer will have given him great confidence. In the two grand slams he has played since Wimbledon, he has won one and finished runner-up in the other. Rafa, Novak and Roger can all be fancied but Murray is a viable hope to break that British hoodoo at Wimbledon.
8. What do you think sets Andy’s game apart from the rest?
He is far ahead of those outside the top four and he is improving. He can play all the shots, has a strong service and has extraordinary levels of fitness. He is also improving in areas that he must to discomfort Rafa, Novak and Roger. His forehand is becoming more of an offensive weapon and his second serve has improved. On his day on grass, he is as good as anyone.
9. How big a role do you think his mum Judy and brother Jamie have in his success?
His family have been a strong support. His grandparents are never far from Wimbledon when the action starts and his father, Willie, is responsible for at least some of that fighting spirit. Judy is a great influence. She is an accomplished coach and a tremendous reader of the game and Andy looks to her for advice. But she is also his mum. In times of trial, he relies on her for comfort and she has never let him down. Jamie is part of the Murray success story. He was the older brother Murray played against all his life. Jamie was the bar to be reached, the rival who had to be overcome, the constant playing partner who never backed down. People forget that Jamie is a Wimbledon champion in mixed doubles and once was rated one of the best juniors in the world. He is vital to any hopes of understanding how a wee Scots boy became a grand slam winner.
10. What do you think budding juniors can learn from Murray?
Technically, that is perhaps a matter best left to tennis coaches. But the big Murray lesson for anyone trying to reach a goal is this: work hard and be prepared to make sacrifices to reach your destination.
11. What are your thoughts on his partnership with Ivan Lendl?
I was sceptical about this at first, believing that two major personalities would clash. I am glad to have been proved so wrong. Lendl has tweaked the Murray game, particularly on the forehand and second serve and he has also brought the Scot forward a pace or two on court. But the biggest influence may be that Lendl has been there and done it. Lendl knows what it is like to lose grand slam finals and he also knows what it is like to overcome this and win majors. Murray is thus listening to a personality forged by experience at the highest level.
“Murrayball is out on June 14 and available to purchase on www.amazon.com. Read it on Kindle - or on your Kindle app for iOS and android devices. It is available in a standard format or with video content, both priced £2.99 / $5.75.”
READ THE FULL EXTRACT FROM ‘MURRAYBALL’ IN OUR WIMBLEDON ISSUE OF SW19 MEMBERS CLUB MAGAZINE AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD ON THE APP STORE.
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