Christa Ackroyd: Why Andy Murray’s tears make him a real man

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It was excruciating to watch. As Andy Murray limped out of the Australian Open in tears and in agony he earned his place as a sporting champion the likes of which Britain has never seen on a tennis court, or indeed anywhere else.

Andy Murray should never have played tennis full stop. He was born with a split knee cap which should have ruled him out before his career even began.

He should never have played that match in Australia earlier this week. You could see how much it physically hurt him, but more so how much mental torture he had to endure, knowing his body had given up long before he was ready to give up on tennis. But play he did. And he was the victor even in defeat.

Of course in true storybook fashion it would have been all the more fitting, having overturned a two sets deficit, if Murray had won what could be his last match ever. But then watching him hobble between magnificent point after magnificent point would have been to no avail.

It was obvious he could not have continued into the next round, let alone progress to lift the trophy. And for all true sports fans it was equally as painful to watch a man aged just 31 having to face the end of his sporting career, even though he immediately promised to endure one more operation in an attempt to grace the centre court at Wimbledon one last time.

Actually grace is probably the wrong word. This is a man who wears his heart on his sponsored sleeve and sometimes it’s not been pretty to watch. It has cost him fans along the way. But his sheer bloody-mindedness has won him his place in history and taken us along for the ride too.

My mum, bless her, was a massive tennis fan. For us life as we knew it stopped during Wimbledon as she watched match after match, ostensibly shelling peas or hulling strawberries. Her view of Murray was simple. He was a flawed genius who needed to smarten himself up and stop all this shouting and air-punching or he would never win big.

Thankfully she was wrong. It was exactly that passion, that hunger, that self-belief that made him different and took him, albeit too fleetingly, to number one in the world.

For some Andy Murray will always be judged by that crass and totally naive remark made as a teenager that with Scotland not at the World Cup he would be supporting any team that beat England, a joke that took him a decade to put right.

Some fans, mainly men who are just as partisan when England are playing Scotland or Wales, will never forgive him. Well they should. He has brought Scotland and Great Britain sporting glory that our generation had almost given up hope of achieving.

Tennis is a sport for a privileged few. It isn’t taught in schools but in expensive tennis clubs. Andy Murray has changed all that. He and his brother were far from posh boys and their divorced mother struggled to pay the bills, but that made each victory all the sweeter and why he will not give up even now, until his doctors tell him it really is game, set and match.

I was lucky enough to be inside the Olympic Park in 2012 when thousands of us watched on big screens as he battled his way to gold. Bless her, when I rang to check she had been watching, Mum declared he had now unleashed the demons that prevented him from winning Wimbledon. How right she was, twice. But she still wished he would get his hair cut.

As the tears flowed this week you could see how much it meant to Andy Murray to have to even contemplate bowing out. But a man who cries is a man not afraid to let his emotions show. And for that I love him even more.

Judy Murray once said it was important that Dunblane, Andy’s home town, was remembered for more than an appalling school massacre during which a young pupil named Andy Murray was on his way to the school’s gym, so escaped the killer’s evil intentions. It will be. Andy never got over that day. Instead he used the pain, as he did on Monday morning, to leave a legacy of triumph over adversity, not just for sports fans, but for all of us. I don’t know whether we will see him on a tennis court at Wimbledon again. He doesn’t know himself. It’s the fact he so desperately wants to be there that is the most magnificent sporting achievement you or I will probably ever witness in our lifetime.