How did Andy Murray boost his popularity with the public?
Sir Andy Murray has divided opinion and found himself under immense scrutiny throughout his illustrious 15-year professional tennis career.
Intense pressure and media interest tend to go with the territory when you’re tipped as the first British man capable of winning Wimbledon for more than 70 years when still a teenager, but Murray has not always flourished in the limelight.
Ahead of his return to professional action at Queen’s Club in the Fever-Tree Championships men’s doubles, how has the 32-year-old transformed his reputation to become one of Britain’s national treasures?
The old adage that seemed to stay with Andy Murray for much of his career was that he was seen as ‘Scottish when he is unsuccessful and British when he is successful’.
A YouGov poll asking the public if they think of him as a Scottish or a British sportsman has often been heavily influenced by his success on the court.
It is wholly unfair on Murray, who almost single-handedly won Great Britain the 2015 Davis Cup to go alongside his two Olympic triumphs in London and Rio.
He was often criticised for showing a lack of personality and having a monotone voice, and comments about supporting England’s opponents at the FIFA Football World Cup in 2006 were held against him.
In 2008, Murray prioritised his own schedule over representing Great Britain in the Davis Cup and for years he struggled to warm the hearts of the nation.
How times have changed.
Murray has transformed his reputation by engaging in debates on difficult topics, fighting for gender equality and showing off his wit and often misunderstood sense of humour.
Whether on social media platforms such as Twitter or in press conferences and interviews with the media, he is never one to shy away from voicing his opinion.
Murray was described as ‘a natural’ when he made his debut as a pundit during the 2018 Wimbledon Championships and he’s proved that he doesn’t take himself too seriously with appearances in the crowd for BBC comedy show Mock The Week.
Back in 2008, Murray released an autobiography at the age of just 21, in which he looked to set the record straight over ‘misunderstood’ comments he had made in the past.
Murray’s use of Twitter has also led to him gaining a strong online fan club, with over 3.5m people appreciating his self-awareness and ability to laugh at himself, with tweets such as this.
It is his powerful views on important public issues, however, that coupled with his on-court success has ensured that he is now held in very high esteem throughout the United Kingdom.
Many sportsmen and women are criticised for being too bland or boring when dealing with the media, but Murray has become a must-watch for journalists and the public whenever he is interviewed.
Murray was affected by the sexist backlash that he received when hiring Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014 and he has continued to fight for equality between men and women since.
In 2017, he called out a journalist that claimed Sam Querrey was the first American player to reach a Wimbledon semi-final since 2009 by replying “male player”, in reference to Serena and Venus Williams who had reached the last four on several occasions during that period.
We are in an age where consumers want companies to take a stand on social issues and have their say on political, environmental and cultural issues, and it is the same when it comes to individual athletes.
Murray is a great example of how sports stars can transform the public’s perception simply by being themselves and opening up to their fans.
No one can accuse him of lacking a personality anymore and he is a far cry from the misunderstood teenager whose relationship with the British public went up and down like a tennis racket.
He looks happier now that he is back competing in the sport that he loves, and the worst of his injury worries are hopefully behind him.
Let’s hope that his appearance at Queen’s Club is not the last that we see of Andy Murray on a tennis court this summer.