Andy Murray - The Prince of British Tennis
By Kevin Cain
On Sunday evening the 20th November 2016, Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic to claim the ATP World Tour Finals and cement his position even further as undisputed world No.1
The victory extended his current winning run to 24 matches. Andrew Castle, the BBC’s sports commentator, was glowing of his appraisal of Murray, “This achievement, to put in perspective, is bigger than any grand slam. It takes an awful lot of work.”
Murray is without doubt the most successful British Tennis player ever but at first it did not always look like the petulant young Scot was going to reach such high levels. To topple Novak Djokovic at the O2 Arena was a mighty achievement and to replace him as the best player in the world is staggering.
The Glaswegian first turned pro in 2005 and it was a very different young man that took to the courts back then. The raw talent was obviously there but it was also combined with a very moody and sometimes surly personality. Andy Murray somehow had developed characteristics the top pampered stars such as Nastase and McEnroe showed at their peak but he was yet to achieve anything.Today Andy Murray is a totally different person, apart from the odd reminder that he is Scottish rather than British, his temperament on the court is now flawless and focused. Sponsorship veterans said that Murray’s beefed-up appeal comes from calming down his rants and sulks, aided by the fact that now he is married Kim, 28, and has become father to Sophia, born in February. He has also become a top attraction and somebody fans want to queue up and watch. His tennis is now at the forefront, and he is playing better than anybody else out there at present.
In 2015, he’s earned $8m in prize money and $15m in endorsements. With deals with Standard Life, Head and Rado, plus a four-year contract with Under Armour worth $6m annually, Murray’s net worth is estimated at $70. To put this in perspective, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams both pocketed $160 in the same year and Roger Federer was top of the tree with an estimated $359 net worth.However Murray’s allure to the sponsors and advertisers is growing rapidly as the tantrums are behind him and he is playing some exceptional tennis. His grand slam and ATP wins, together with his Beckham-style family appeal means the modern day Andy Murray is a very packageable proposal, as far as the marketeers are concerned. In fact David Beckham’s agent Simon Fuller, also masterminds Murray’s sponsorship partnerships. Murray’s wealth doubled after his last Wimbledon win and according to veteran sponsorship consultant Nigel Currie, it is due to double again. Currie said, “ His family make him more and more marketable as he attracts wider media coverage now, as celebrity families do, and that makes him even more marketable.”
It is not just his temperament that Murray has improved, he has worked hard at developing his game also. His modern work ethic is well known on the circuit, and remains as punishing as ever as he enters the later stages of his career. Once a weakness in Murray’s game was his second serve but he has worked hard to rectify it. The success of his hard work was there for everybody to see at the O2 on Sunday, no longer a timid effort there for the taking, it dug him out of trouble more than once against Milos Raonic in the competition.In 2015 at the Australian Open, Murray’s average second serve was 85 mph, in 2016 this had increased to 93 mph with the fastest clocked at 108 mph.
Murray’s improvement has relied heavily on the advice of his coaches, in particular Jamie Delgado who is a low profile coach bought into Team Murray this year. Delgado has been a constant companion since his appointment in February, providing technical savvy, hitting ability and friendship that Murray clearly values highly. The supreme tactician, Ivan Lendl was also taken on board in June. If Delgado offered the week-in, week-out grind of the tour advice, Lendl coached for the grand slams. This added finesse from Lendl gave a finishing school polish to Murray’s overall game.
Mats Wilander, the former world No.1 was quoted as saying, “If we are honest, at 35 is Roger Federer going to win another Slam and threaten the top three? At times, yes, but I’m not really sure.” “Rafa Nadal might win a French Open or two, but is he going to be a threat again on hard courts?” “Djokovic has been there for so long but at some point his intensity and motivation has got to slip, so who is left? Andy Murray.” What Wilander is trying to say is that the rise of Murray to the top of the tree in World Tennis is a predictable accession. Because by deduction the former greats are now waning as they get older. Murray is in his prime, and has reached the pinnacle of his game at exactly the right time.
All that being said, Murray has had to fight his way to the top against very strong opposition. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are three of the greatest men’s singles players ever to play the sport, and they all graced the game at the same time, and for a long period. When one did have a dip in form the other two took up the baton and ruled. Over the past ten years there has been no easy period, where you could get lucky against just one top star in a final.Andy Murray is a player you either love or hate, perhaps a legacy from his early petulant days and his supposedly disliking of everything English. There is something that however you cannot dispute, in a highly competitive era of tennis he has risen to the top, and that is something that must be respected and admired.