Andy Murray waves to the Centre Court crowd after defeating Oscar Otte in the second round of Wimbledon
He may be bound together with a metal hip, yet the relationship between Andy Murray, the two-times Wimbledon champion, and his fans on Centre Court is as seamless and strong as they come.
In recent years, the 34-year-old’s relationship with his home slam has been reduced to that of a long-distance relationship – retiring on the eve of the 2018 Championships, a fleeting appearance alongside the GOAT of the women’s game in Serena Williams in 2019 in the mixed doubles – but 2021 has seen Murray and his cherished fans renew their vows on the hallowed – albeit this year highly slippery – turf at SW19.
Over two thrilling evenings this week, and with seven hours and 23 minutes court time in those agonising victories, Murray has again treated his long-suffering fans to every emotion under the sun. This is not a new phenomenon. While his metal hip and ageing years adds to the allure and appeal of the three-times major winner, here’s how his relationship with Centre Court fans has blossomed over the last 16 years.
1. 2005 – Sean Connery cheers on Scottish debutant in 2005
Greeted with headlines of ‘Tiger Tim is dead, long live Andrew Murray’, after stunning 14th seed Radek Stepanek in his first ever Wimbledon main draw match, the 18-year-old wildcard was handed his Centre Court debut against 2002 finalist David Nalbandian – and didn’t disappoint in front of fellow Scot Sean Connery in the players’ box. After taking a two-set lead, cramp and fatigue set in and he left to a standing ovation after showing his world-class qualities in a 6-7, 1-6, 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 second-round loss.
Sean Connery at Wimbledon in 2005, alongside wife Micheline Roquebrune
2. 2006 – Distracted fans lifted by upset over Roddick
While England were beaten on penalties by Portugal in the World Cup, Murray gave distracted fans with one eye on events in Germany something to celebrate by dismantling third seed and two-times Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick in straight sets 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round. Having got himself into hot water with earlier comments about the England football team, Murray was diplomatic about their defeat. "It would have been great for England to win the World Cup, it would have been great for British sport, but now I’m going to have to try and win here.”
3. 2008 – Victory over Gasquet sealed place in crowd’s affections
This was the win that cemented Murray’s place in Centre Crowd’s hearts as a stunning fightback from two sets down against Frenchman Richard Gasquet thrilled the fans in the fading light at 9.30pm. With cheers of ‘Murray, Murray’ circling the 15,000-capacity stadium for the first time, the 21-year-old pulled back the sleeve of his shirt and tapped his bulging right bicep that powered him to a 7 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 6-4 victory. "I wanted to show that I’ve worked really hard on my condition. This was the best moment I’ve ever had on a tennis court. The crowd were unbelievable and got behind me when I really needed it.”
4. 2009 – Overcoming Wawrinka under the roof
It was fitting that Murray would feature in the first match to be played entirely under Centre Court’s new retractable roof, with another evening of intense drama and intrigue ending at 10.38pm, which at the time, was the All England Club’s latest finish yet. With the roof amplifying every cheer, Murray needed to call on their support after meekly losing the first set before battling to a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 win in three hours 56 minutes.
5. 2012 – The tears after losing to Federer in first final
‘I’m getting closer’ were the immortal words that drew a lump in every devoted Murray fan on Centre Court and drew tears from mum Judy in the players’ box after witnessing her son’s near, but yet so far attempt to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to lift a major singles trophy. Spectators’ loyalties were split during the showpiece, such as Roger Federer’s appeal in south west London quarters, but the raw emotion from Murray won fresh hearts and minds.
Murray struggled to contain his emotions after losing the 2012 Wimbledon final to Roger Federer
6. 2013 – Rollercoaster ride part II
Five years after his epic against Gasquet, Murray was putting fans through the wringer again, falling two sets down to world No 54 Fernando Verdasco. After plenty of self admonishment and chuntering, Murray dialled into the fans’ shrieks, cheers and ‘C’mns’ to sneak through in five.
7. 2013 – The wait is finally over
Drama free, but filled with emotion and elation, Murray finally, finally ended Britain’s 77-wait for a men’s champion with a straight-sets win over marmite opponent and world No 1 Novak Djokovic. “The noise levels during the whole match were just incredible”, he reflected. His place cemented in sporting history, the fanbase continued to strengthen and grow.
Centre Court was left in raptures after Murray's debut Wimbledon triumph in 2013
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
8. 2016 – Fifth-set dramatics part III
With a Centre Court still reeling from watching Roger Federer come from two sets down to overcome Marin Cilic, Murray withstood a dramatic fightback from 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win in five and reach a seventh Wimbledon semi-final. With the crowd rallying round ahead of the final set, Murray drew into their reserves and powered home 6-1 in the fifth after nearly four hours.
9. 2017 – The start of Murray’s injury hell
Shrugged off as a ‘sore hip’ following the defending champion’s five-set defeat to American Sam Querrey in his 10th consecutive Wimbledon quarter-final, this was the match that was the start of the almost end for the world No 1. Fans watched on in bewilderment, unable to inspire their desperately washed out and pained hero. Little did they – and Murray – know the injury troubles that would follow over the next few years.
10. 2021 – Murray returns with late-night dramatics
After a four-year absence, Murray – now with metal hip in tow – offered a reminder of what fans have missed with a rollercoaster of a first-round contest that he so nearly threw away against 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili after leading two sets and 5-0 up. Yet, it wouldn’t be Murray without some form of drama. With the roof closed, the lights on, Murray and his fans were reinvigorated and could fight another day. The cheers changed to laughs during the on-court interview where Murray revealed the inspiration behind his fourth-set recovery. "I went to the shower and to the toilet – it was just a number one." Good humour, a never-say-die attitude and an ability to read the room every time. Murray’s return to Centre Court has been a breath of fresh air – for both himself and his still ever-growing fanbase.