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“I’m not an artist, but I love art”: Andy Murray set for 2020 debut
The three-time major champion will compete in this week's Battle of the Brits at the LTA's National Tennis Centre, after his brother Jamie helped spearhead putting together the special event.
Published Jun 22, 2020
Throughout his career, Andy Murray has frequently exhibited the traits of a distinguished action painter. He first brings a rainbow of emotions when arriving to work on his canvas. There are textures to his intensity—rapid, uncompromising movement, expressive eruptions, wholehearted waterworks. With an arsenal of brushstrokes, he is unafraid to splatter his creativity around the court through lofty lobs, boisterous backhand returns and cunning changes in pace. One could say he has the ingredients of a Jackson Pollock when he's at his best.
Off the court, that assertion could not be further from the truth.
Before his right hip injury stopped him from applying his genius on blue, green and red surfaces, Murray wasn’t much of an art aficionado. A friend would show him creations and the former No. 1 would respond, “Oh, I could do that”, oblivious to the polished techniques behind the deceptively simple-looking pieces. On the contrary, his wife Kim is a gifted painter with her own oasis at the family home, a small studio designed to bring out inspiration. One night, with the house to himself during a period away from the ATP tour, Murray decided to test his own imagination. The result? Implosion and ineptitude.
“I was trying to do the flicking like paint, Jackson Pollock type stuff, it was literally going on the ceiling and was everywhere,” Murray told Tennis Channel. “My wife came back from dinner and was like, ‘what the hell has gone on here?’ It was awful. My painting was terrible. I was like, ‘I should try to appreciate this more.’ I started to go look at art.”
His artistic dexterity has continued to be tested during the COVID-19 pandemic. Murray never made it out to Indian Wells when the BNP Paribas Open was canceled, and was a day or two from flying to Miami when he and his team decided it wasn’t worth the risk. The tours would eventually suspend operations indefinitely, opening an extensive window for Murray to wear his dad hat and contribute toward keeping his three children occupied.
“At home with the kids, every day it was just trying to find new things for them to do. Making dens, making castles out of cardboard and I’m so useless at that stuff,” said Murray. “I’m not creative in the slightest. But it was good for me to try.
“My kids were going nuts at me (a few days ago) because they were asking me to draw stuff for them to color in and I can’t do it. ‘Do a duck.’ And they’re like, that isn’t a duck. It doesn’t look anything like that.”
For 10 weeks or so, hitting tennis balls was not part of Murray’s daily routine. The three-time major champion continued working out, and later, Kim offered up a new avenue for her husband to stay in shape by presenting a road bike for his birthday in mid-May. Murray, who shares that he hadn’t used one prior to the lockdown, has quickly taken to it.
During this period, his brother Jamie, winner of seven doubles Slams, was working behind the scenes to help pull together The Battle of the Brits, a special six-day competition bringing together the country’s finest men’s singles and doubles players at the LTA's National Tennis Centre. Fans haven’t seen the younger Murray step on court yet in 2020, as he suffered an injury setback last November, but will get their first look at the two-time Wimbledon champion this week—on television screens only—when he first takes on Liam Broady in the Tim Henman Group. The top two singles players and doubles teams after round-robin play will advance to the semifinals.
“I’m really excited to get back out on the court. Jamie had the idea and spoke to me a bit about it, whether I would be interesting in playing. I said I was. It’s kind of just progressed,” said Murray. “I know there’s been a lot of hard work that’s gone into it. It’s brilliant that it’s happening and all of the guys are really pumped, really into it. It’s been nice for all of us as well, because we’ve been messaging and practicing together. There’s been a nice atmosphere around here.”
The Battle of the Brits begins Tuesday, less than a week after the USTA announced it would move forward with hosting the US Open at Flushing Meadows. The hard-court major will follow the Western & Southern Open, which organizers moved from Mason, Ohio as part of a three-week bubble in New York. Reactions to the news have been mixed at best: some have concerns about the safety of staging the tournament in a prior epicenter of the coronavirus; there was vocal dissatisfaction about the decision to eliminate qualifying and wheelchair draws. Others have praised the organization for finding a solution to provide hundreds of players the opportunity to compete and earn prize money, along with reducing further economic devastation to the sport.
“I’d been sort of involved in some of the discussions over the last couple months and tried to find out what was going to happen and where the USTA were at each stage,” revealed Murray. “Sometimes, it was looking like it wasn’t happening, and then the next week it would look like it was. And then the following week, it was like, there’s no chance. So you didn’t really know how it was going to play out in the end.
“It’s been really difficult obviously to try and find something that will hopefully work for as many players as possible. It’s not perfect, but you can’t expect that just now. I’m excited to go over and play. It will be strange, if you play like in Arthur Ashe with nobody in there, it’s a huge stadium. It will be a bit odd, but it will be an experience.”
Should the US Open happen, it would provide Murray the chance to play his first best-of-five set singles match since the 2019 Australian Open. There, he lost a gripping five-setter to Roberto Bautista Agut and left many in the tennis world to wonder if it was his final opus. That thought turned out to be premature, as the Dunblane, Scotland native would successfully return from his hip resurfacing to win the Queen’s Club doubles title with Feliciano Lopez in June and, after starting singles action back up in August, raised the Antwerp singles trophy two months later.
Getting back to feeling comfortable in Grand Slam singles competition will undeniably be challenging, and his recent history means factors beyond his control will play a significant role. But with a greater admiration for the craft itself, there's no question Murray will give every ounce of passion to render a new masterpiece with his brush of choice.
“I’m not an artist, but I love art.”