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Hitting Back: The Autobiography - Kindle Edition

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Genre: Biography / Author: Andy Murray / Kindle Edition / 330 Pages / Book is published 2009-05-04 by Cornerstone Digital

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      01.07.2012 00:06
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      Boring book from a boring man

      So after reading this book is Andy Murray as dull and petulant as he comes across in the media and on court, an image he clearly doesn't feel happy with, the reason he wrote the book, the way it reads. The answer is a resounding yes, an autobiography as comfortably as insipid as the tennis player. Whereas Andre Agassi's phenomenal autobiography 'Open' is beautifully poetic and honest on the sport and the man and so a stunning read, Murrays is just repetition and whinge, a man who should stick to playing tennis and put the pen back down for a while. He strikes me as quite dim to be honest. He even confesses to deliberately missing an autograph signing session with the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders to get some extra sleep! I can't imagine Agassi doing that. Jim Courier would be still there! The book is essentially an exercise of putting right journalists and his critics, something he should have done at the time. A good autobiography should add to the reader's knowledge of the writer and be emotionally involving. This is neither.

      As a tennis player I have always liked Murray and when he was 17 I called him to be a future slam winner, something I have never done before with any British player and something I stick bye. I also see those qualities in little Heather Watson. I love the way he unsettles opponents with his chip and charge, slice and drive style, not a relentless two handed slogger from the base line like Nadal. He doesn't need to wear down his opponents. He is a genuine tactician, an artisan on the court. Tim Henman, rather ironically, over-performed at Wimbledon to earn his extremely unfair criticism whereas Murray is doing the best he can against three of the greatest players that have ever lived to earn his 'loser' tag, again extremely unfair. Getting two guys this good from our middle-class gene pool wasn't easy and so as long as the sport remains in that social class we shouldn't expect a champion.

      The book reveals Andy Murray to be a surprisingly middle-class tennis cliché, an image he clearly doesn't like to garner, always put across that he is very much the rebel that succeeded in spite of the 'snobby' London based LTA system that he saw as disruptive to his development in his youth. He even blames it for brother Jamie's inability to make it as a singles player. Mum Judy is also a bit 'chippy' over the set up but her failures perhaps lay elsewhere. It is revealed here that a young Judy Murray was on the women's professional tour for a while and, like Henman, has relatives that also played at Wimbledon, but unlike Tim she dropped out because she couldn't cut it. It's almost as if she is living her failed tennis playing career vicariously through her boys and interesting to note that she fell pregnant with them to end her poor showing on that tour. You do wonder if women have kids when they know their chosen career is not going to work out, an easy way out where you don't take the blame and can offload that guilt of your failures on to your husband, he, too divorced soon after by Judy for not living up to her expectations. This is one emancipated Scottish gal. Let's hope her role as the National Women's Federation Cup coach will produce the champions Britain really should produce. The delightful but steely Heather Watson suggest that may well happen.

      The early days for Andy and Jamie were in Dunblane, Scotland, the place of that terrible slaughter of the poor innocent children by Thomas Hamilton. There is a chapter on that event and in their tight knit community Judy and the kids were occasionally given lifts by Hamilton, a loner who helped to run kids clubs in the small town. Andy was at the school when and where the kids died although luckily elsewhere on the grounds. He claims he doesn't remember any of it and clearly doesn't want to linger on it. Maybe he draws his courage he shows on the court from that event for all the kids didn't survive and never got the chance to be good at their chosen careers and lives.

      The boys moved quickly through the age group championships with mums coaching skills and time not a hindrance, firmly in and funded by the LTA set up. But by 15 mum feared her kids would fall away like she did and Andy encouraged to go to the Sanchez - Cassel Academy in Barcelona, the RBS bank finding the funding to secure the tenure. Unlike his brother, Andy enjoyed his time away from home, 'a fun time of tennis, tennis, tennis....Playstation and copying each others homework in the gaps', as he puts it. That early independence helped to add maturity to his game and after he won the Junior US Open at 17, his first Wimbledon at 18 would let everybody know he was a real talent, winning through to the second week and finally going out to bad boy Nalbadien in a grueling five setter, fitness the only thing holding him back now.

      Before his twentieth birthday he made the Thailand Open, beating the local favorite Tischipan in the semi-final and losing to the all-conquering Federer in the final, a man he had only beaten on that Playstation. But it was Henman's retirement in 2008 that would weight heavy on Britain's new number one, a fellow player Andy speaks very highly of in the book and are still big mates today.

      Murray talks harshly about fellow British players in the system, jealousy rife, an attitude hoping each other lose so they can rise up the British rankings to get more funding and then not spend that funding on our excellent LTA facilities to be a better player, remaining unused and the other players not putting in the time to be as good as Murray, distractions like university and having fun the priority. I personally have no problems with tennis being middle-class and so a social sport that wont produce great players but I do when they waste lottery funding on it, the money the players get to effectively help them fund university, by the looks. The Williams sisters succeeded so escape adversity whereas our kids fail and go to university.

      As Murray's fame grew his disdain for the press grew faster, enforcing a BBC ban after they stitched him up over a drugs and betting story. Like most sportsmen he forgets that its publicity that generates the interest from sponsors and it's that that pays his huge wages. I write a column for my local paper on cricket and always get it in the neck from the players when I write negative about them. They don't understand the fan/player relationship. They expect adoration for making it but dot appreciate how the adoration comes about. Murray's childish attitude to the media is always - 'what's it got to do with you mate?' He has to show up and hit the ball back to make a good living and the press has to show up and write about it to make on ok living. But too much media leads to too much demand for stories and sound bites and so the whole thing gets boring, the same boredom that Murray spent on that in the book. The overpaid women players, on other hand, love the publicity and just two good years on the tour for a pretty, leggy player can earn lucrative five year modeling and cosmetic deals ad so a brisk retirement. Don't get me started on equal pay for women players! Murray did have a sexist moment when he made a trivial comment about 'serving like a woman' and a mini storm blew up, again those pesky tabloids creating stories out of nothing. Murray, ever the sensitive chap, took it personally. But I 100% believe women are overpaid and agree totally with Richard Kriejeck, who was memorably quoted as saying:

      '80% of women players were fat pigs and don't deserve equal pay for a quarter of the work the guys do'. He was asked to rescind that and said he was wrong; it was 75%!

      Just as in golf if you don't win a Major you are quickly forgotten and so Murray has to win. Andy understands that and determined to do it, as was Henman. Tradition has it that Davis Cup players can use the Champions dressing room at Wimbledon alongside the greats but American Andy Roddick refused as he felt he never earned that right and only took it up after he did win a Slam. Murray is very much in that camp that he wants to prove to himself and everyone else that he is not just a money list player like you see in golf. I don't think he will be the Jimmy White of tennis.

      To be fair Murray does comment on tennis ills in the book to spice it up, like the use of performance enhancing drugs, feeble women's serves and betting and match fixing etc. Like all money making sports lots of that money is spent by the regulators on burying stuff detrimental to their sport. Its pretty clear all players don't give 100% in every game and the fact that they are expected to be competitive for a 48 week season only encourages fake injuries and playing to lose, pick up your appearance money and ranking point and job done. The most high profile accusation was leveled against Raffa Nadal, who like many other players, had to play with injuries to maintain his top ranking and so occasionally 'tanking out' of tournaments early on and so saving his A Game for the Slams. The suggestion was made that 'friends of' Raffa knew he would not go deep in certain minor tournaments and only there to sell tickets and honor his sponsorship deals. Murray was skillfully misquoted by the media around betting in general to muddy Raffa's name - amongst others - and that caused obvious tensions in the locker room, Andy effectively saying 'it goes on' and so, by association, all players 'could' be involved, a naive mistake by a young opinionated kid. In truth it's not match-fixing but just managing your schedule as the top players are in demand for those 48 weeks, a ludicrously long season and Murray at the forefront of trying to shorten the tour so to discourage fake injuries to tank from ATP tournaments. Every year I back the guy playing Nadal in the grass court Wimbledon warm up tournament in Halle or the Stella Artois at fabulous odds and every year I make money. But the specter of real match-fixing is there because if you are 200 in the world you can clearly make more money on the exchange betting by deliberately losing your match on your terms than slogging it around the world.

      Performance enhancing drugs is the biggest elephant in the room for sport and so tennis no different. The ATP had a big problem a few years back in the power surf and volley days when lots of players tested positive for a certain banned muscle producing steroid. The ATP came up with a fudge that it was in a supplement 'handed out' by the ATP Tour and so no one was guilty, too many big names caught taking it for heads to roll. Not surprisingly since then the big serve has all but gone from the game as a deal has clearly been struck behind the scenes that you will go down this time. Andre Agassi admits taking crystal meth during his career yet he never tested positive for it, at least publicly. Are these positives kept in-house or even ignored to protect the sport?

      By 2007 Murray was winning tournaments and in the worlds top ten, the first Scot to do that since the 1940s. But, like most sports books, its here the author starts to reel off those scores and match details and things get even duller, speed reading time. Hardcore Murray fans already know that stuff and so of little interest. Its also at this time he starts to go through coaches quicker than racquets, one of those players that needs to blame others and injuries for his lose of form or lack of progression even though he knows the problem is closer to home, like golfers blaming their clubs.

      The Davis Cup has also sprung some tabloid attacks, a welcome gap made in the tour calendar for all the top players to be given the chance to play in their national teams but some players choosing the opportunity to rest in the busy 48 week schedule instead. The match with Argentina caused the biggest stink when Murray claimed injury to avoid the grueling trip, brother Jamie attacking Andy in the press for his lack of patriotism. The relationship between the brothers is frequently touched on in the book, fractious to say the least. Mum Judy tries to put Andy across as a quite a sensitive chap but after reading this I still think he is a surely Jock with a chip on his shoulder. But that won't stop me willing him on to win for Britain, one of a very few group of punters out there who thinks he can Wimbledon this year. With Nadals amazing defeat and Federer ready to fall it's written that Andy will play in the Wimbledon Final in the Olympic year and win the Olympics gold medal to boot. I'm on at 10-1/ew.

      For those female middle-aged tennis fans that have badges on their floppy hats at Wimbledon, love Cliff Richard and boating holidays in The Broads this book will appeal. It's non-offensive and very safe and apologetic, written not to generate much publicity, a rarity for a book. As far as a tennis expose and a thrilling read it's just not happening. Sports stars should never write books mid career as they dare not say what they need to, for credibility, as that person they don't like is still on the other side of the net in Murrays case.

      Bulked out with chapters from people in his life this is also a lazy book by Murray, merely a clear his name exercise of having a pop back at the press that created the dramas in his life ad walking away. Why would you write a book if you hate the media side of your sport?

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