From the Magazine: Murray Mania
The shoot is almost wrapped; Vogue’s people are whizzing around, folding clothes and packing props. But the energy and heat that always build in a room during a photo shoot are still buzzing as Mario Testino clicks through thumbnail pictures on his laptop. He croons, “Beautiful! Beautiful! Andy, come and see how beautiful,” so the lanky guy in Adidas track pants lopes across to look at himself. His expression is unreadable. Andy Murray, Britain’s number-one tennis player and perpetual Wimbledon hope, is routinely labeled by the English press as dour, grouchy, grumpy, humorless, miserable, standoffish, prickly, cold. Note: the English press. Murray is British, of course, but he is not English: He’s a Scot, born north of the border, in Caledonia stern and wild. He was a mere gangling eighteen-year-old in 2006, when he deposed Tim Henman as British number one and Roger Federer said, “Watch out for this boy—he’s going to be good.” Murray ended the year as number seventeen in the world rankings, and from that moment on, newspapers ran the same shot of him, over and over: fists clenched, head wrenched back, eyes screwed, mouth open, roaring, like a rutting stag. It is a powerful image—though, on Wimbledon’s green lawns, not exactly strawberries-and-creamy.
On Testino’s laptop, he’s in a knife-sharp tuxedo that lies very lightly on his body, with the shirt collar yanked open, black tie hanging untied, green eyes hot and fierce. There is a sense of . . . um, dampness about his person, partly because he’s been sprayed down, partly because the word raw is next to the picture. The next picture clicks up, also raw, and the next and the next. Goodness, Mario, he does look amazingly raw, I say, and everyone laughs mockingly: “Raw” just means unretouched, Testino says, adding, with grace, “But he is raw. You are right.” He is also, we agree, shy.
We are in Andy Murray’s garage (concrete floor, bare cinder-block walls) because it doubles as his weight room, with barbells and racks of free weights: Testino was so struck by the daily/hourly grind of relentless practice that is all-consuming for top athletes that he shot him “in here. Where he works.” Murray lives in the county of Surrey, southeast of London, in the kind of sleek, manicured suburb that used to be known as “the stockbroker belt” (now “footballer belt,” meaning housing for multimillionaire English soccer players). The road is discreetly private: He has security gates to his house, but this is not a gated community, nor is it hung with the kind of signs one might see in Malibu advising armed response, because obviously armed response would be frowned upon in England, seeing as it’s illegal. He bought this house—modern, three-story, high-spec—at the end of last year, and he loves, loves, loves it. His girlfriend, Kim Sears, lives here with him. “Born the same year as me ,” he says. They’ve been going out “for the best part of five years now. We met in New York, actually. Her dad’s a tennis coach. And her family was over there for three days when I was playing the U.S. Open for the first time.” The house is so new that the yard in back still looks like corporate planting, with a tidy lawn and non-littering evergreen shrubs. There is no tennis court; no need, because almost what he loves best about his house is that it is 20 minutes from Wimbledon’s practice courts.
The ground floor is a lavish acre of white marble flooring; the rear wall is mostly glass; huge plasma-screen TVs hang in the living room, the den, and the vast, modern eat-in kitchen—which is stuffed with the sort of machines (ice deliverer, espresso machine) that would seem exotic to most British 23-year-olds. Especially since there’s a pool room attached with a running machine and those giant balls you lie across. Or your trainer stretches you across. Or one of your trainers. Team Murray consists of tennis coach Miles Maclagan, a physical therapist, two strength-and-conditioning coaches, plus a coaching consultant. How many people does he employ? “Maybe six? Or seven?” Hmm. He is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland, by Adidas, and by Highland Spring, whose patriotic mineral water is “drawn from organic land in the Ochil Hills of Perthshire.”
I prod him to talk about clothes because I guess he maybe doesn’t think about new trends in menswear all that much. In a voice like Atlantic breakers dragging on gravel, with the Scottish accent giving him American-style clarity around the R area, he says no. “I don’t, actually. At all.” He is more of a “shorts-and-T-shirts guy—I spend all my life in them because of playing.” But he liked getting dressed up. Mario had to tie his tie for him: “I had no idea how.” He must have black-tie gear in his wardrobe, though? “I don’t, no.” But doesn’t he go to black-tie dinners and stuff after the Wimbledon tournament finishes? He says, “You do if you win.” Right. “The stuff was really nice. Really, really nice.” I urge him to expand on “nice”—like, what was nice about the tux he’d had on? He says it had a darker stripe down the side of the leg.
OK. This young man is not prickly, grouchy, grumpy, humorless, or miserable: He is deadpan funny.
Christopher Bailey, designer of Burberry (whose tuxedo it was in which Murray was looking so . . . “raw”), thinks he is going to be an iconic British tennis player. “He’s so focused and so driven in his craft,” says Bailey. “He’s laser sharp: a wonderful person for the nation to celebrate.” Bailey thinks he will be a global brand as a sports star, which is an amazing thought because we have remarkably few iconic sports stars here in the UK, even in the iconic sports we actually invented, like soccer and cricket. Try as we might, we can think of only one other British sporting iconic global brand, and that would be David Beckham (who is, funnily enough, a very good friend of Andy’s and is also looked after by the same management agency, 19, founded by Simon Fuller).
Everyone in Britain who can read knows Andy Murray’s backstory because he and his elder brother, Jamie, were raised in the little Scottish cathedral town of Dunblane. Judy Murray, his mother, coached both her sons at tennis—Andy from the age of two. “She was a national tennis coach of Scotland, so she coached all the best juniors,” her son says. “She’d have me and my brother and three or four others that did well.” Both boys went to the local elementary school, which was the scene, in 1996, of the hideous massacre by a lone gunman who entered the school’s gym and killed sixteen of the littlest kids and their teacher. Andy was eight. It’s tough to wear the lifelong resonance of a freak day of infamy in which your presence was random, accidental. He can’t remember how he felt at that age and would never be questioned on it—and still won’t—just saying he was “too young” to remember. Interestingly, he put something on the record in his (ghostwritten) 2008 autobiography, Hitting Back, where he says he was almost relieved, when thinking back, that he was so young. “If I had been fourteen or fifteen, it would have shocked me far more deeply.”
It’s such a strange life he leads. He travels the world ceaselessly to seek his fortune: The U.S. Open is this month; the Australian Open is in January; the French in May; Wimbledon in June. In between are lesser tournaments: at London’s O2 arena, in Dubai, Qatar, Bangkok, Tokyo, Shanghai, Mumbai. It is the kind of restless existence led by medieval crusaders, sixteenth-century merchants in sailing ships, Yukon gold rushers, bands of brigands, tight-knit units of special forces.
If Murray’s life improved enormously when he moved into his well-appointed house last year, one thing that has disimproved it is the new World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ruling on drug testing for elite competition sports: the WADA Whereabouts Program, which means athletes must inform the doping authorities of their movements for one hour of every single day. So Andy Murray has to pick one hour out of the 24 and tell WADA his precise location during that time. Every day of the year? “Yes, every single day. So they can come and randomly test you if they want to.” But what if you’re going to Australia? “I have to update where I’ll be, and give them an hour, even if it’s in the BA lounge at Heathrow. All the countries have their own testers, but I get tested a lot because I live close to London and I have an apartment in Miami, and those places have lots of testers.” He usually picks 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. (“because I am normally asleep then, and they can wake me”). But if he wakes early for once, and goes for a walk with his girlfriend’s dog, and misses Mr. 7:00 a.m.–8:00 a.m. Tester by five minutes—one strike. “Three strikes and you’re out.” Banned? “Oh, yes.”
Also, they can still come randomly, without any warning. He was most peeved in May because it was election night, and it was the first time he’d been able to vote. After doing so, he planned to settle down for a long night of TV when “one of the drug testers turned up to give me a random competition drug test, and this is like 9:30, and I was just like eaaarghhhh, and you spend the next 45 minutes instead of watching it having someone ask you basically to put your trousers to your knees so that they can watch you and make sure it’s you that’s doing it. One of the most uncomfortable experiences you can have. It’s horrible.”
Team Murray arranged a seat for me at the second round in the hallowed Centre Court at Wimbledon, bang opposite the Royal Box. Hallowed is not an adjective I would normally employ for tennis courts, but it is allowable today, I think. Most often, the Royal Box has no royalty in it (apart from the Hollywood kind), but today it will be graced by the world’s most major royal of all, Queen Elizabeth II. Though this is the first time she has been to Wimbledon in 33 years, no one is making a big fuss, least of all the grandees running the Lawn Tennis Association. Questioned as to the extra cost of providing security for the head of state, one unnamed source said that the only additional cost had been “500 yards or so of purple rope” in order to cordon off her route as she trotted around the venue on foot. “The club doesn’t keep it in stock as standard.” The tabloids, in contrast, have been making so much tiresome fuss about whether or not Andy Murray, a Scot, will bow to the English queen that he finally has to Tweet his followers: “Would be an honor and privilege, of course I’ll bow.”
The queen, a teensy, white-haired figure in a float of Tiffany turquoise (matchy-matchy coat, dress, hat), makes her timely entrance into the box a minute before the players. When she appears and walks slowly down to her seat, there is a strange, throaty roar from the crowd, and everyone stands up. Clapping. Because this is history! Last time she was here, in 1977, Virginia Wade (British!) won the women’s singles. And you weren’t even born then, darlings. The clapping got louder as she sat down, and Murray and his Finnish opponent came out. Boy, did those guys bow. In sync. One arm in front and one behind. Next to me, Simon, Andy’s publicist, was drinking Pimm’s and texting endlessly. “Sorry, sorry. I just—uh—it’s David Beckham, he’s in South Africa, with the World Cup team.” Me: David Beckham? Texting you from Bloemfontein? He: “Yeah, he’s—uh, just wanting to know how Andy’s doing, and I’m updating.” Three straight sets and it was done, with Andy victorious. The 2010 plan came unstuck at the semifinal (Murray versus a Nadal so possessed and focused on the day that there was no dealing with it, nor anyone stopping Rafa from taking the Gentlemen’s Singles cup two days later).
Murray’s hopes for 2010 were exactly the same as his hopes for 2009: “to win one of the four Grand Slams.” The Australian Open back in January was a close-run thing: He was in the final against Roger Federer, and Federer won in three sets. At the French Open in May, he went out in the fourth round against Tomáš Berdych. As the guys get ready for Flushing Meadows, Rafael Nadal is ranked number one, Novak Djokovic number two, and Roger Federer number three (which looks all wrong somehow). Andy is number four. Thumbs up, I say. Though I just read a prediction from John McEnroe, and he says Andy will win the U.S. Open, he is convinced.