In my first meeting with Andy Murray, I quickly realised two things: first, he is his own man who won’t do or say anything he doesn’t believe in and, second, he is incredibly self-effacing; despite all his success, he doesn’t consider himself as anything other than ordinary.
To begin with, he didn’t relish our cameras being part of his life. He isn’t a naturally showy person. But I told him, “If you engage with this, Andy, you’ll find that you’ll start to invite the camera to do things.” Bit by bit he did, allowing me, but more importantly, the cameras, to see how a top tennis player lives his life. His preparation is as arduous as it is thorough.
We filmed at one of Andy’s infamous “boot camp” sessions in Miami. He trained for six hours, and that was considered a light day as he was off to a tournament the next week. Pilates, Bikram yoga, weights, speed-work alongside hours on the court.
Then there’s the iced bath session. Andy has to spend ten minutes in a brutally cold bath after training to rid his body of the lactic acid. He has a cup of sweets to lure him into the water (he wears just his shorts), and for us at least he resisted the obvious urge to swear out loud.
The post-training regime is nearly as rigorous and punishing as the training itself but, as Andy said, it’s necessary: like other top sportsmen, he is susceptible to injury. Prevention and coping with it is part and parcel of his job.
He’s had to learn to eat properly. However, he finds it a struggle to reach the 6,000 calories a day he sometimes has to consume, especially as, by his own admission, he doesn’t cook well. Take-away sushi is his mainstay.
His backroom team is like family, though it’s effectively a business. When I asked him who rules the roost, he was very definite. He does. He is in charge of the Andy operation. It made me think: this is a 26-year- old who’s not just playing tennis but employing coaches, physios and he’s actively involved with the management company looking after his sponsorship and media commitments.
He’s got one coach, Ivan Lendl, two fitness trainers, Jez Green and Matt Little, his hitting partner Danny Vallverdu, physio Andy Ireland, and Matt Gentry from Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment (his management team). Andy admits that to begin with he took some stick for having a big entourage, but says it’s crucial to his performance at this level.
Despite the fierce competition that exists between the players, he is very good friends with his rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Andy and Nadal have known each other since they were kids playing the junior circuit. Off court, they love to compete against each other on the PlayStation, though Nadal laughingly dismisses Andy’s abilities knowing he’ll see it in the documentary.
The highlight of filming for me was going back to Dunblane Primary School with his mum, Judy, who was giving a tennis lesson. It was quietly moving to see how much the Murray siblings – his brother Jamie is also a professional tennis player – mean to that school and the Dunblane community.
So what of the perception I originally had of him? It’s only having spent time with him that I realise he is very different to the guy you see in action. He’s laid-back, polite and witty; he has a droll sense of humour. But he is completely focused on his game and goals, which can make him appear aloof.
It’s an erroneous observation. When we were at the training session in Miami, Andy took five minutes out to play a couple of rallies and pose for photos with a little boy. On his homecoming in Dunblane after his US Open win he spent hours signing autographs and posing for photos, seemingly a bit unsure of why everyone had turned out to see him – that shyness comes through again.
Andy just can’t do the dual personality thing. If he’s not in great humour you see it; if he’s disappointed with himself you see it. He seldom gets annoyed with other people but he winds himself up about many things. He wears his heart on his sleeve. There isn’t an Andy that goes into a press conference and an Andy outside of it; he doesn’t edit himself. Andy has learnt to deal with the media but he doesn’t change his personality because of it.
He loves spending time with his dogs and is an avid sports fan, whether it’s watching or playing. I would describe him as shy but confident; I know that’s a contradiction but that’s how he comes across. I spoke to a lot of people for the programme – including Nadal, Tim Henman, childhood-hero Andre Agassi, actor James Corden, retired Manchester united coach Sir Alex Ferguson and Vogue editor Anna Wintour – to get an insight into this private, unassuming man.
And they all described Andy as normal, humble, not showy and very ordinary; I got the same impression. Having met his family, this is not surprising. Jamie and Judy give us a good insight into Andy the person. Apparently, a bad weekend for Andy is a poor result from his fantasy football team! Ross Hutchins, his close friend currently being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, talks of the support Andy has given him and how mentally strong Andy is.
He loves tennis. But it’s also his job and he works to be the best in the business. He trains, eats, sleeps and travels. You don’t see anything flash because he doesn’t do anything flash. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t go out. And it all comes back to one word, mentioned by everyone we spoke to – “ordinary”. This ordinariness, this humbleness, an ordinary lad who has become extraordinary.
Andy Murray: The Man behind the Racquet is being shown on Sunday 23 June, 10:25pm, BBC1