Everyone I know hates him, but – God forgive me – I go a bit gooey for Andy Murray. Usually I can hide it well enough but there he was last week, topless, on the cover of granny’s favourite listings magazine. And there again, winning Queen’s and ripping his knuckle-skin on his racket strings. And then there, winning his first round match at Wimbledon and slagging off all the other British players for being damp squibs. Perhaps everyone I know has got a point.
But after the radiant mediocrity of Tim Henman, isn’t it wonderful to have someone who vomits on court, who wipes blood on his Fred Perry shorts, who has a sarky joke for the interviewer who teases him about Scotland not making the World Cup finals? (‘Who will you support then?’ ‘Anyone but England.’) His inability to please is appealingly dour: Never mind if I’m not nice, it says, I’m pretty good at tennis. And with the achingly dull life he leads – his bio on Twitter is ‘I play tennis’; his tweets tell of steaks, hitting himself with miles (which I hope means going for runs), Nintendo Brain Training, dog walking and terribly tame dares – it’s a wonder he’s got anything to say at all.
But the most perverse thing is that he’s sitting on a Cinderella story. As a seven-year-old, he escapes the Dunblane massacre by hiding under the headteacher’s desk. No good at school, he plays sport: football with his dad, tennis with his brother and mum. His brother is soon junior world number two and Murray desperately wants to beat him: when he does, his brother bends one of his nails back into his finger until it swells purple; it will never heal. He goes to Spain to train with the best and comes back surly, firing the world’s top coaches. But with strength training, a new team around him and the love of a good literature student, Murray finds his form, is seeded third in the world, wins Queen’s and then goes on to win . . . But wait, he’s not played Gulbis yet.