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This was originally published in 2008 under the title 'Hitting Back' and was revised, updated and renamed in 2009 as 'Coming of Age'. It's the autobiography of the U.K's current number one in men's tennis, Andy Murray. When this autobiography was first published I did hear some grumblings from some (nasty) corners about how Murray shouldn't write a book unless he was more successful and had won a grand slam. I never really understood these arguments as Murray, even before he started to win the big ones, was one of the world's best players, the best Britain had seen in forever and one of the most curious sportsmen around. Of course, since this book was published Murray has won some of the biggest prizes out there, namely the Olympic Gold, the U.S Open and Wimbledon. Although you might think this autobiography could therefore be redundant now believe me when I say that it's not. In fact, re-reading it after Murray has realised some of his biggest dreams is really satisfying and emotional.
The book begins with Murray's memories of his first Wimbledon. Now, from a tennis fan's perspective and as someone who has always supported Murray I have to be honest and say that the young Murray used to slightly annoy me at times. His game was great! He had all the right moves and hit the ball so well! But then there was the attitude, the mental fragility and the lack of fitness to contend with. Murray seemed to be his own worst enemy at times and he admits to this in this book, explaining the importance of certain matches where he realised he just wasn't good enough yet. It is an interesting perspective into the mind of Murray and it also reveals a great deal about the journey of a champion and what events and moments motivate them to go on and do even greater things.
Murray then focuses on his childhood and how he came to start playing tennis. It's a very thorough and interesting account which of course has to touch on the tragedy of the Dunblane shootings. Murray was a pupil at the school in 1996 when a man went on the rampage with a gun, killing sixteen children and their teacher. Murray mentions his feelings about the event in a way which suggests he'd rather not talk about it because of it's horrific nature. I think you can sense what emotions he is carrying about the event from what he doesn't say as much as what he does say.
Murray's training in Spain is then covered and it's quite astonishing to read how determined Murray was at such a young age. At only 15 he goes off to Spain on his own to be trained by the best in the business after realising one of his peers, Rafael Nadal, was getting a far more complete training experience than him. After this Murray documents his experiences as a junior player and as an up and coming celebrity sportsman in the U.K. He talks about his brother Jamie, a doubles player and about other notable players like Tim Henman. Henman contributes a little and discusses how he first met Murray and what he thinks about Murray's ability in the game. Jamie also briefly talks about their childhood together.
Murray talks a bit about his struggles to deal with the media and reflects on a couple of moments when his mouth got him into a little bit of trouble. One incident was when he made a joke about how he would be supporting whichever team was playing England in the 2006 World Cup. He said this jokingly, being a little bitter since Scotland weren't there, and a lot of people didn't take it so well. In fact just how much this incident was blown out of proportion is explained by Murray as he remembers the vile notes left in his Wimbledon locker abusing him and cursing him to lose after this incident. It makes you realise the immense pressure a sportsman like Murray is under and it certainly makes you respect Murray a whole lot more for enduring such horrible treatment. There are some other similar moments too, when Murray is accused of being sexist and also for suggesting there were rigged tennis matches. It's all very interesting to read about how he coped with the accusations and what the truth was.
Murray discusses his coaches at length and talks in detail about some of his more important matches during this period of his life. His mother, Judy, also talks at length about her sons and how she interested them in tennis. It's not difficult to see where Andy's dedication to the game comes from and Judy's own personal story is as interesting as Andy's.
Towards the end of the book there is a light-hearted 'About Me' section where Murray answers some questions such as 'Favourite Food?' and 'Sharapova or Ivanovic?'. The final chapter of the book is the updated segement where Murray explains how a year has now passed. It's funny but the new segment of the book has a different tone and style to what has gone before. It's a sign that Murray has matured and grown and it's almost like a teaser of what's to come. Re-reading this last chapter after Murray's first Grand Slam achievement at the U.S open had me in tears.
I would thoroughly recommend this to tennis fans and indeed to anyone who likes reading autobiographies and biographies of sports people or celebrities. If you aren't already a die hard Murray fan like me then you'll discover that Murray is a very complex, intelligent and likeable individual with a great sense of humour. Reading about his ambitions and his sacrifices is inspiring.