John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Sunday 8 July 2012) Living and losing

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Sunday 8 July 2012) Living and losing

The phone rang at around noon.

“It’s me,” Kristie said.

“Hi,” said Roy.

“So, what have you been up to?”

“I’ve just come in from the garden,” Roy replied. He was still in his pyjamas and had been out of bed for less than half an hour.

“We’re getting ready to watch the tennis,” Kristie said.

“Oh yeah? What time is it there?”

“Seven-ish. We’re having dinner on our laps to cheer on Andy. You’ll be watching, won’t you?”

“Yes, I expect.”

“You’ll be able to think of us then, won’t you?”

“Yes, I will.”

“Roy?”

“Yes?”

“You are alright there, aren’t you?”

“Of course I’m alright! I’m fine.”

“OK, just thought I’d ask. Ella would like to say hello.”

“OK.”

“Here she is.”

“Hello Ella.”

“Hi Grandad! How are you?”

“I’m very well, thank you Ella. How are you?”

“Grandad?”

“Yes?”

“Why are you there all alone?”

A little later Roy googled “andy + murray + dad”.

He read that Murray’s parents had split up when he was nine, with his mother leaving the family home.

He read that a year earlier Murray and his older brother had been at Dunblane primary school as usual when a man walked in and shot dead 16 pupils, a teacher and finally himself. Roy remembered the massacre: the interviews with survivors; the professionally grave faces of on-the-spot reporters; the whispered debates with Kristie about whether Lucy and Leila were upset; the morbid mass voyeurism.

He read that Murray’s dad went to lots of Andy’s matches and didn’t mind that no one ever noticed him.

He read that Murray’s mother, who everyone noticed, received hate mail from her son’s fans. He wondered if opponents thought Murray a mummy’s boy? Was he? Did it matter? Did Murray care? Did Murray think from time to time about unemployed former shopkeeper and paedophile scoutmaster Thomas Hamilton loading his four handguns, walking into the school gym and opening fire on a class of five and six year-olds?

Murray walked on to Centre Court in sunshine. David Beckham and other forms of royalty gazed down. Roy looked on from the sofa, hopes-of-the-nation burble in his ears, utterly convinced Murray would lose. It made no difference to him that Federer started nervously and that Murray won the first set. This was merely a glitch from the Swiss that would delay the Scot’s defeat and extend Roy’s tortured empathy. Roy counted off the four break points Murray lost in the second set and waited for Federer to seize the first that came his way. This duly occurred.

At one set all, the heavens opened. Roy wryly indulged an internal joke that this was a cosmic prelude to Murray’s hopes being washed away. Federer took the third set six-three and the fourth six-four to win the match. Sue Barker advanced. Murray tried to talk, but cried. “I felt like I was playing for the nation,” he said, once passably composed.

Roy noticed Murray widow’s peak, concluding dolefully again that each slam final defeat made winning one still harder, that it would never, ever happen, and that, for all his great success, Murray, at just 25 years old, was doomed to a tennis life dogged by the ache of disappointment. He went to bed but found it hard to sleep.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE. Follow John on Twitter.

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Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

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