The kid bared his teeth. He had his opponent where he wanted him, where 60 million hungry Brits wanted him: facing break point, the match on the line. The young Scot demanded that the fans help him step on his foe's neck. Andrew Murray had been pumping his fist and punching the air over winners all afternoon, and now he screamed, "Come on!"--not to himself but to the crowd, his crowd. He wanted the Centre Court masses to stand and yell and give him more, and they did so as Saturday evening closed in. One man watching shook his head and murmured, "That's what Henman never did."
But now Tim Henman was gone, and no one in Great Britain seemed to mind, because just hours after the 30-year-old Londoner capped a decade of grim-and-prim effort with his second-round loss to Russia's Dmitry Tursunov last week, up popped Murray, 18 years old, ranked 312th, with the voice of Groundskeeper Willie and the demeanor of William Wallace. Last Thursday, in only his sixth match as a professional, Murray ignored Radek Stepanek's cheap ploys to throw him off his game and trounced the 14th-seeded Czech in a cool three sets.
Two days later Murray held his own against 18th seed David Nalbandian, the 2002 Wimbledon finalist from Argentina, before cramping and fading to lose the first five-setter he'd ever played, 6-7, 1-6, 6-0, 6-4, 6-1. The performance moved none other than Jimmy Connors to declare that for Murray, "the sky's the limit."
Nine years ago Murray hid in the headmaster's office at his school in Dunblane, Scotland, while a lunatic killed 16 children and a teacher. Murray saw none of it; if he bears any residue of that day, it doesn't show. He betrays no nerves on the court, nor is he a high-strung artiste, viewing the fans as a necessary evil. He invites everyone in.
July 3, 2005
"That's one reason I play tennis: I want to get more people playing," Murray said on Saturday. "The way I am on court, they might enjoy it a bit more and not think it's a dull sport. They might get into it."
No might about it. They're into him already, in a way that could make Henmania look utterly sane.