Andy Murray is not dead.
I think it’s very important that we understand that Andy Murray is not dead. Across the media, his imminent retirement from tennis is being announced with sweeping statements in the past tense. ‘He was the greatest British sportsman of his era,’ tweets Patrick Collins, President of the Sports Journalists Association. ‘He will be hugely missed,’ laments Kevin Mitchell in the Guardian.
But he’s not dead.
I’m not dead, either. I wrote a novel that was published in 2015 (that’s my Wimbledon finals win, which I trained and worked towards for over twenty years). I’ve had injuries since – failures and setbacks, a brain completely unprepared for the yawing abyss between the lived experience of being published and the reported experience of being published, a life outside writing which somehow refused to shape itself around my achievement. I kept writing; Andy kept playing. Roger Federer kept winning stuff – other writers kept publishing new stuff. Andy pushed through pain to keep going; I lost a third of my hair and developed persistent insomnia, and still I wrote.
Andy Murray is still the man who responded to a question about how it felt to be the first person ever to win two Olympic golds for tennis with the dour comment that Serena and Venus had won about four each. Andy Murray is still the man who sat in the audience of Mock the Week laughing as a succession of comedians made extraordinary comic capital of him with ‘Unlikely things for Andy Murray to say.’ He’s still the man who faced down the sexist reactions when he employed Amélie Mauresmo as his coach. He’s still a husband and father.
And I’m still the woman who cares for four children and a husband with a long-term health condition. I’m still the woman who learned to play the piano in her forties, who mentors and teaches, who is a trustee of two charities, who stands on the mountainside with arms outstretched, straining to hold the back an avalanche of historical family dysfunction from burying her own children as they play in the snow.
Andy Murray needs more surgery, and I need sleep. He’s retiring, and I need to make some kind of change. I don’t suppose he has any more idea what the future might look like than I have; right now, I’m sure the landscape looks a little bleak to both of us. But there are seeds in that soil, and trees we planted years ago that may yet bear fruit. The qualities that got us here are still part of us. It may be the only thing Andy Murray and I have in common, but we’re not dead.