Serious business for funny guy Murray
WIMBLEDON, England -- Ever since Andy Murray took over as the Great British Hope at Wimbledon, he has been criticized about his boring demeanor, monotone voice and on-court negativity. Before him, there was Tim Henman, deemed too beige and upper-middle class.
But there's been a different Murray on display these past couple of weeks. Maybe it's the confidence of reaching the French Open semifinals despite a bad ankle. Or maybe he's finally become immune to the annual pressure to end the now 75-year national drought in men's singles at Wimbledon.
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Whatever the reason, Murray has been exhibiting the sense of humor that close tennis watchers have always known lurked beneath the surface, letting loose with deadpan quips and flashing a smile with fair regularity.
Here's a sampling of some of his best one-liners during the grass court season:
On the scrutiny of his right ankle injury: "This has been a pretty depressing press conference, even for one of mine."
On looking like his ankle was bothering him on the court: "I tend to grimace after most points anyway."
On compatriot James Ward's reaching the semifinals at Queen's: "I had to put in a good performance today to try and get some of the spotlight back."
On Ward's physical trainer: "I heard that he was an ex-cage fighter, so I sort of stayed away a little bit."
On the spectators who turned out to watch the rain-delayed Monday final at Queen's: "I hope not many of your bosses saw you on the TV today."
On the royal sister-in-law turning out to watch tennis: "Apparently Pippa Middleton was at the tennis yesterday -- was wondering why none of the photographers were focusing on the tennis."
On what advice he could give Li Na on handling national expectations: "She's won a Slam, so I should be the one asking her for advice."
In a BBC column during Queen's, Murray said, "I woke up in a panic when the alarm went off in the early hours of Monday morning. The adrenaline was pumping so I reached for my racket -- what else? -- and headed off to investigate.
"When I was standing in my boxer shorts, tennis racket in hand, at 2.30 a.m. preparing to tackle a burglar, any thoughts of Queen's or Wimbledon were a million miles away.
"Fortunately, it turned out to be a fault with the alarm."
The unexpected wake-up calls didn't end there. After his first-round win, he related the arrival of drug testers at his house at 7 a.m. on Thursday, his only day off. "I was fast asleep," he said. "He rung the bell six times, as well."
His mother, Judy, made them a cup of tea -- "which we shouldn't," said Murray.[+] EnlargeGlyn Kirk/AFP/Getty ImagesIt's a different, funny Andy Murray on display at Wimbledon this year.
So is the country happy with this new, humorous Murray? It doesn't seem to be, with some a bit suspicious of all this zaniness.
"Andy Murray, the gruff grumpychops of the Centre Court, has just triumphantly taken the trophy at Queen's, but can he ever be taken to our hearts?" asks The Telegraph. "Certainly there appears to be a PR campaign afoot to overturn the Scotsman's unfortunate public persona -- one so dismally taciturn it makes Gordon Brown look like Jim Carrey.
"There was his balsa wood Comic Relief appearance alongside the winsomely precocious cast of 'Outnumbered,' then his 'viral' internet adverts for sports firm Head, in which he does clever tennis tricks on London's rooftops, lies in bed with a [male] fan and engages in a shower scene with a [fully dressed] girl fan, for which he famously stuffed a sock into his pants to bolster his, ahem, image.
"You see, he is zany after all. Isn't he?"
The Guardian adds, "As usual when the Wimbledon juggernaut is rumbling into view, somebody out there seems to have been tasked with convincing the world that Andy Murray is a zany and lovable young pup.
"For what it's worth, the view from here is that whoever is in charge of Murray's image management should make more of the British No. 1's physical resemblance to cult comedy film character Napoleon Dynamite."
So it seems Murray can't win -- unless he wins Wimbledon, of course.
But will this new, more relaxed attitude help him win? That remains to be seen. Murray faces a potential semifinal against Rafael Nadal but might first have to navigate past opponents like Richard Gasquet and Andy Roddick in the second week. The first week should not be a problem, though he started shakily against Daniel Gimeno-Traver under the roof on Centre Court in the first round.
Venus Williams gets to feel young
Venus Williams turned 31 on Friday, making her one of just seven women 30 and over to be playing at Wimbledon this year. The five-time champ says she's "smarter, if anything, than five years ago -- that's the beauty of having a long career, is being able to use the experience that you learn on the court."
Her second-round opponent also has plenty of experience -- Kimiko Date-Krumm, the only 40-year-old in the draw. Date-Krumm was a semifinalist here in 1996, and her low, flat shots are well-suited to the grass. Venus will have to bend and stretch, but should have too much firepower for the Japanese veteran on what is also Venus' best surface.
The veterans seem to all like grass. Tamarine Tanasugarn, the third-oldest player in the draw, has also had her best results on this surface.
Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.
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