Great Scot! After what seems like weeks and weeks of reading about Andy Murray's exploits off the tennis court since his victory at the US Open, he was back in action last week to defend his Japan Open title in Tokyo. (Bad news: Murray lost in the semifinal round, to Canadian Milos Raonic.)
It may seem a long time since we watched Andy sink to his knees in disbelief when Novak Djokovic hit it long on match point at Flushing Meadows, but the three weeks or so between the US hard court season and the ATP's Asian swing is pretty normal. It's just that this time around, instead of resting and playing PlayStation, Andy has been hanging out with fashion designers and sitting through interviews with the world press — not to mention mingling with the entire population of his hometown as everyone wants a piece of the poor guy.
Usain Bolt, who describes himself as the most gifted athlete on the planet in his Twitter profile, loves and thrives on media attention. Andy — not so much. His Twitter profile reads, simply: "I play Tennis."
It is a well-known fact across the pro tennis circuit that Andy Murray is a shy man. A non-drinker, historically he would rather spend time with his buddies figuring out their fantasy soccer teams (Andy is defending champion in that, too, no doubt) than hang out at Burberry fashion shows with the likes of Vogue's Anna Wintour sipping cocktails.
"Not something I normally do," he wrote on his Facebook page on September 18, posting three pictures of him with his girlfriend Kim Sears and Wintour. He also "likes" Burberry. His new brand of choice, perhaps? After all, a man's wardrobe needs more than just Adidas T-shirts and sneakers, right?
If this kind of engagement didn't already make Andy squirm in his seat, he is probably a lock to win the "Best British Young Sports Star" award at BBC Radio 1's Teen Awards. If he wasn't in Asia, he would likely be rubbing shoulders with One Direction and, perhaps if he was lucky, Little Mix. That might force Andy back in his cave for good. And I don't blame him! He and I are both fans of that other boy band, A-Peace.
One engagement he has fulfilled since September 10 — one that he really wanted to do — was in his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland. Less than a week after his life changed forever (in a good way), he returned to the streets of his old stomping ground and walked into an emotional hero's welcome. "To have been in my hometown today and to have had that reception is something that will live with me for a very long time," Andy commented on his Facebook account, after spending half a day signing autographs, posing for pictures with fans and hitting some rallies with appreciative kids.
He even made time to chat with Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, about the possibility of funding a new £10 million tennis complex near Edinburgh that would teach tennis to children of all levels. Not chump change, but with Andy's likely yearly income likely topping $20 million for the next little while, something he can afford.
That said, how many athletes do we see putting back in to the grass roots of their sports rather than spending their income on more houses, fancy cars and posh restaurants? Andy is one to definitely buck that trend. Even at his post-US Open dinner celebrations, when he paid the huge bar bill for him and his entourage, Andy only had a $6 lemon soda. Bet it tasted good, though.
With so many social functions behind him, Andy can now get back to the court and focus on his year-end surge to the ATP Finals, held in London in November. After Japan, he's off to defend another title at the Shanghai Masters (he loves the restaurants there, according to his website) where he is likely to renew his rivalry with Djokovic, before heading to Paris for the final tournament before he hits the "O2" in London.
It has been an enormously successful year for Andy, with the Olympic gold medal and his first Grand Slam win. How fitting that he can finish the season back home with a stellar chance, if he wins that final tournament, of ending the season as World Number 1. Unfortunately for Andy, if that happens, more glamour and attention awaits...
by Matt Goff
Top: Andy Murray plays a forehand during the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
Above right: Kim Sears, Andy Murray and Anna Wintour discussed fashion at the Burberry Spring Summer 2013 Womenswear Show Front Row in London in September. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images for Burberry)
Above left: Andy Murray returned to Dunblane, Scotland, following his win in the US Open and his gold medal in the 2012 Olympic games in London. Thousands lined the streets of his hometown as the 25-year-old returned to meet with family and friends following his summer triumphs. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)