‘The great thing about Andy is he hasn’t changed – he’s authentic’
MARK PETCHEY has tales about the teenage Andy Murray that might make your toes curl. Like the time the Scot was sitting in a rental car on a gridlocked New York street, cheerfully pamping the horn at all and sundry, leaving his coach fretting that the NYPD might stage an intervention. Or how about the evening the uber-competitive youngster spent all night in an upstairs room in Petchey’s house, furiously battling away to beat his daughter’s record on children’s toy Bop-It.
So it is somehow counter-intuitive when the Scot’s former coach and Sky Sports pundit reveals that one of the best things about his former pupil is how little he has changed in the decade since he used to chaperone him around the globe.
“He’s slightly less annoying than the guy who was pressing my horn in the middle of New York, with me worrying about us getting shot,” says Petchey. “But genuinely one of the most beautiful things about him is he hasn’t changed as a person. He’s obviously changed as a player, he’s become so physically dominating on court. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that he’s so authentic. What you see is what you get, love him or hate him. That says a lot about him.
“He got a lot (of money) quite young,” the Englishman added. “That can really tilt your moral values. But as well as being authentic, he’s consistent. He treats you the same all the time. Whether he’s competing at Wimbledon or on an off-week, he’s the same off the court.”
Having overseen Murray’s big breakthrough at Wimbledon ten years ago, Petchey left his job at the LTA to work with him full time, their year together seeing him break into the top 50. Since then, of course, the Murray legend has been built on the back of two grand slam wins and an Olympic gold, but with everything, individually and collectively, that is riding on it, Petchey reckons that bringing the Davis Cup back to Britain this weekend or the first time since 1936 might just top the lot.
“I said to Leon [Smith] after the Queens’ tie that his win against [Gilles] Simon, after what he’d been through at Wimbledon with all the pressure that’s put on him, was arguably the best British performance of the year,” said Petchey. “It’s very easy to get lost in the fact that Andy’s ranked No.2 in the world and he should beat these guys. But to know that if you lose that match and you’ve lost the tie, your dream, and to come back from that position, was incredible to me. If they win the Davis Cup Final it will be one of the greatest achievements of his career – if not the greatest, with all the different pressures.”
Everyone, especially Andy Murray himself, is at pains to point out that Great Britain’s Davis Cup team are not a one-man squad. The likes of his brother Jamie, Dan Evans, James Ward, Ross Hutchins and Scotland’s Colin Fleming have all made contributions to the journey back from Euro/Africa Zone II and the likes of Jamie, Ward, Kyle Edmund and Dominic Inglot could yet help Britain get over the line in Belgium. But, in truth, Petchey is aware how reliant British tennis is on the world No.2.
“Leon [Smith] has made some big calls and 98% of them have come off, so Britain are there because of him too,” said Petchey. “Jamie was the go to guy in France and played well enough against Australia as well. But every team has a franchise player and Andy is ours. He’s unique in the respect that if he loses one of his matches, we lose the tie. We are sitting here talking about winning the ultimate team competition in the world and, along with Jamie and a couple of cameos we’ve had, he’s been the rock.”
The flip side of that, of course, is just how barren a place British tennis will become when his body finally gives way and he decides to hang up his racket. “We are incredibly fortunate to have had him,” added Petchey, speaking as David Lloyd Leisure installed a special rebound wall at a Cambuslang school recently. “It’s hard to put into words what it has meant to us to have been able to be a part of his journey to the latter stages of all these tournaments.
“Without him? It’s a gaping hole, isn’t it? Hopefully nobody is running away from the fact that when Andy goes, the enormous canyon he has been papering over will be laid bare. We need to make tennis cost effective, as accessible and affordable as we can. Without him, it’s going to feel unbelievably barren.”
Until then, Scotland and Britain should just revel in one of the most amazing tales in more than a century of Davis Cup action. “Dunblane could win a Davis Cup,” said Petchey. “They [Andy and Jamie], on their own, could win it. And fair play. It is a great story and they are great guys. What other
Hopefully nobody is running away from the fact that when Andy goes, the enormous canyon he has been papering over will be laid bare
EARLY INFLUENCE: Mark Petchey helps a 19-year-old Andy Murray prepare for action.