As Andy Murray describes, the day when he had to choose between professional tennis player and professional footballer was, simply put, difficult. Luckily for Scottish sport, he has won 44 tennis titles throughout his career including two Wimbledons, the Olympics, the US Open and the Davis Cup. But one could wonder: what if?
At six-foot three, Andy Murray has the height of a towering striker, or maybe a solid centre back. With a grandfather who used to be a defender for Hibernian, football runs through his veins. “I think I picked it up quite naturally” he said. “However, I’m a more attacking player and wanted to score goals, so I would always play as a striker or as an attacking midfielder.”
Aside from hitting the park with his brother Jamie and making good use of the backyard in order to practice his skills while playing with friends, Andy admitted he didn’t play for many clubs in his youth. “I played a lot in and out of school and also for the school team, which I think is how I got scouted.”
By the time Rangers FC gave the young Glaswegian an opportunity at youth level when he was 15, Andy Murray had already won titles with a racket in his hand. His first tournament victory was as an under-10 junior at the Dunblane Sports Club and two years after the offer from Rangers, Murray made his professional debut in April 2005.
Even though his choices led him afar from a possible career with football, it still is very present in his life. “Despite choosing tennis, every now and then I try to squeeze in a five-aside game, which is always great fun. I also love watching it and I take my fantasy football pretty seriously”.
He reckons that the feeling involved in winning between tennis and football are aren’t that similar. “The sports are completely different” he said. “The emotions of winning, however, are probably a little distinct. In football you’re part of a team, you have your teammates with you on the pitch and the manager shouting instructions from the sidelines, which I’m sure provide a huge reassurance. However, tennis is not the same, when you’re out there on the court, you only have yourself, your coach isn’t allowed to coach you. There’s very little room for error.”
While Andy himself admits the two sports are completely different, we did have to ask the Wimbledon champion if he’d prefer winning the World Cup or keeping tennis’ treasured trophy. “I remember when I won Wimbledon I felt a huge sense of relief” he said. “Years of hard work and pain had finally paid dividends and I was incredibly proud.”
“In football, I’m sure there’s that sense of relief especially for national teams, but at the same time it’s a more collective pride and sense of achievement for them. I don’t know if you can compare it with the emotion of scoring a winner goal in a World Cup Final. Both competitions are the peak of their sports, and to win either them is an incredible accomplishment.
“That being said though, I would love to know what it feels like to score in a World Cup final, although I think it’s probably a bit late to change careers!”
As one of the greatest athletes of all time, Andy Murray can give excellent pieces of advice to all those who are thinking of aiming for a successful career in football, or any other sport for that matter.
“Practice, practice, practice!” he said. “You can have all the natural ability in the world but that will only get you so far. It’s important to always remind yourself that you can always improve. There is always something you can improve on, even if it’s by one percent, in elite sport especially, that extra one percent can make a huge difference and can often be the difference between winning and losing. Make sure you work hard on all aspects of your game, including the things you think you’re good at.”