Andy’s latest column – US Open 2015
After his victory over Nick Kyrgios — already a lightning rod for controversy in his young career — Andy Murray spoke about his own maturation process, the lessons he learned about navigating the news media, and the language used in the heat of battle.
Q. After he lost to you, Nick Kyrgios came in and challenged the room of reporters to ‘Speak up if you were perfect when you were 20.’ No one did, obviously. I was wondering, since you’ve supported Nick, how do you feel you’ve matured most?
A. Yeah, I think the thing that I would say are the similarities between me and him are that I found it very difficult speaking to the press, and I would go in to do press conferences in a completely defensive mood when I went in, because of problems that I had when I was younger, and I felt like I had been unfairly criticized. I used to read a lot of stuff, and I wasn’t used to having people criticize me like that. I found it very difficult to deal with the media, and I think that’s something that I’ve seen in Nick as well.
That would be the similarity; we’re quite different characters, different personalities, but there are certain things that he’s done that I can understand. Everyone makes mistakes, and I think that he’s like everyone else in that respect. But there are certain things that you obviously can do and can’t do, and it’s just important that he learns from those mistakes, and learns where the line is. It takes some people a little longer than others.
Q. What were moments that you learned the most from yourself?
A. I think that’s one of the things that you learn: the media aren’t your friends. I get on well with most of them, but if they get a scoop on something, or they find something out from someone, they’re going to print it, regardless of whether it makes your life more difficult or not. That was something that I think, from a young age, I started to understand. I don’t think there’s been necessarily one moment here or there; it’s been a bunch of things that I’ve done and that I’ve learned from. There’s not one that stands out.
Q. So there’s no particular advice, then, that you’d give your younger self about dealing with the spotlight, because you deal with a more constant spotlight than anybody in tennis.
A. I would say to give less access from a younger age. I think it’s important, and I think it’s something the ATP could do a little bit better as well, is to protect the players a little bit. You don’t get media training. You don’t know how to deal with the media. A lot of the people that are involved in the media, they’ve never had to go through this themselves, they don’t know what it’s like with people criticizing them regularly.
With social media and everything now, it’s not easy; it’s difficult to avoid that. When you’re just a young kid or a teenager coming up and you start seeing those things, it’s not an easy thing to handle. So I think it’s key to listen to and trust the people that are around you, and try to avoid what everyone else is saying. Just listen and trust the people who are closest to you.
Q. With Nick, his initial controversy this time started because of things that got picked up from an on-court microphone. Do you think something should be done to shield players from that, or is it fair to have any moment on-court possibly blown up?
A. What Nick did in Montreal was wrong; you can’t say things like that or do things like that. That was a mistake, and something that I’m sure he’ll learn from. People say things in the heat of the moment that they don’t mean. They may swear at different times.
When I was a kid, I would play five-a-side football with my dad. Around the house, we were not allowed to swear, and I would never hear my dad swearing. But we would go and play football with his friends, and if someone misplaced a pass, straight away: [recites examples of cursing]. Whatever, I hear them swearing, and it’s fine — because he’s playing football, and that’s what they all do. Watched him play squash, same thing. I played tennis with my mom, or competing, and they’d do it.
When people are competing, they tend to say things they don’t really mean, or shouldn’t say. It just happens when people are competing, they say things they shouldn’t and will later regret. I think that it’s important to understand.