• Champion

From swingball to US Open champion

Jo Carter November 24, 2012
Dustcover of 'Champion' by Mark Hodgkinson © Getty Images

Fred Perry can finally rest in peace after Andy Murray ended Britain's 76-year wait for a men's singles grand slam title at the US Open in September. His victory capped a stellar year for the Scot, who reached his first Wimbledon final before outclassing Roger Federer to strike gold at the London 2012 Olympics.

Mark Hodgkinson's book, Champion charts Murray's rise to stardom, and his transformation from a sulky Scottish teenager to a one of the biggest names in sport.

In his narrative, featuring a mix of statistics, anecdotes and insight, Hodgkinson examines the key relationships that have moulded Murray's career and the huge sacrifices the Scot made to fulfil his dream of winning a major.

Interspersed within a chronicle of Murray's life runs a narrative of Murray's journey through the rounds at Flushing Meadows, from his opening win against Alex Bogomolov Jr, via early-round hiccups and his ludicrous semi-final against Tomas Berdych before his epic victory over Novak Djokovic in the final.

Just as HawkEye is used in tennis to re-enact the flight of the ball to determine the accuracy of a line call, Champion retrospectively examines the trajectory of Murray's life, all leading to a single moment in New York in September 2012.

From a youngster who, in his own words had "bad concentration, bad co-ordination and a temper" to the man who won over his cynics with his tears at Wimbledon, the author assesses how every decision in his career helped make Murray a grand slam champion.

Hailing from Scotland, described by British comedy's Monty Python as the "worst tennis nation on earth", Murray matured from the kid who watched idol Andre Agassi win the 1994 US Open wearing the American's signature denim cut-off shorts with neon pink and purple cycling shorts and baseball cap with clip-on blond ponytail, into a member of the 'big four' in a golden generation of men's tennis.

Hodgkinson examines the key relationships that have contributed to his career - from the influence of his mother Judy who handed him his first tennis racket and how his desperation to beat his older brother Jamie motivated him in his younger years.

The impact of coaches Leon Smith, Mark Petchey, Brad Gilbert and Miles Maclagan are all chronicled, as well as his most recent relationship with current coach Ivan Lendl, described in the media as "tennis's odd couple".

From bikram yoga to ice baths via lung-busting track sessions with former Olympic champion Michael Johnson, Hodgkinson describes in graphic detail the physical exertions of a player who realised "you don't get to challenge for grand slams simply by upping your broccoli intake and doing more chin-ups" in order to turn himself into one of the world's fittest athletes.

While he may have no interest in turning himself into a brand like Roger Federer or David Beckham, Murray's progression to the upper echelons of his sport has seen his image undergo a steady evolution, rather than a radical transformation, under the influence of agent Simon Fuller, agent to Beckham and former manager of the Spice Girls.

Not interested in releasing a clothing line like Venus Williams, endorsing underwear like Rafael Nadal or selling sweets like Maria Sharapova, Murray is "not as keen as others to chase every endorsement pound, dollar or euro", conscious that every deal would spell commitments and would eat into his training.

Likewise, his girlfriend Kim Sears, who Murray met back in 2005, has no interest in fame or fortune, is a calming influence on the Scot. "She would much rather spend her days painting cats and dogs, or reading, or listening to the radio, than pose in a photographer's studio or be strafed by flashbulbs outside a restaurant."

With so many British sporting heroes born, and for some immortalised, at London 2012, Murray's story has perhaps not enjoyed as much of the limelight it would have done in a non-Olympic year.

His progress through the rounds at the US Open in many ways parallels Murray's journey from a promising youngster to grand slam champion - enduring physical struggles, surviving adversity and ultimately overcoming a battle with his own state of mind to emerge triumphant.

Andy Murray: Champion
by Mark Hodgkinson
Simon & Schuster

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk