Andy Murray has talked very rarely about the Dunblane massacre but reveals in a new film what effect the tragedy had on him in the years that followed.
In “Andy Murray: Resurfacing”, which will launch exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, the 32-year-old Scot talks about the turmoil he has been through since injuring his right hip two summers ago. He also explains how the shooting at his school is one of the reasons why tennis has always been an escape for him and how it contributed to anxiety problems which he suffered as a child.
It was in March 1996 that Thomas Hamilton, who was known to the Murray family, walked into Dunblane Primary School and shot dead 16 children aged between five and six and their teacher. Murray, who was eight at the time, and his brother Jamie were at school that day, though they did not witness the shootings.
Explaining in the film why tennis is so important to him, Murray says: “I had the thing that happened in Dunblane. That was when I was around nine. I’m sure for all the kids there it would have been difficult for different reasons, but we knew the guy, we went to his kids’ club, he’d been in our car and we’d driven him and dropped him off at train stations and things.
“And within 12 months of that happening, our parents got divorced. I think that’s a difficult time for kids, to see that and not quite understand what’s going on.
“Then six to 12 months after that my brother moved away from home. He went to train [in Cambridge] to play tennis. We used to do everything together, so when he moved away that was also quite hard for me. Around that time and after that for a year or so I had lots of anxiety. That came out when I was playing tennis. A few times when I was competing I would get really bad breathing problems.
“My feeling towards tennis is that it’s an escape for me in some ways, because all of these things are bottled up. We don’t talk about these things. The way that I am on the tennis court I show some positive things about my personality and I also show the bad things, the stuff that I really hate. But I feel like tennis allows me to be that child that has all of these questions. That’s why tennis is important to me.”
Speaking in the film after pulling out of Wimbledon in 2018, Murray reveals how he was scared about the prospect of retiring because he did not know what he would do next in his life.
“I’ve always had structure to my day,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how sick or injured I’ve been, I’ve never called up and said: ‘I’m not coming in today.’ That’s something that I worry about, not having that structure. It’s a very young age to lose something that you’ve done and you’ve had for your whole life. I worry about that.”
The film details some of the procedures Murray went through in an attempt to recover after suffering his hip injury at the 2017 French Open. He had two major cortisone injections in the joint and two nerve ablations in an attempt to alleviate the acute pain he was feeling.
Murray’s wife, Kim, described him as “a sad shadow of what he used to be” when he made his first comeback 11 months later in June 2018 following keyhole surgery in January.
Two months later he was playing through so much pain that he felt his career was over. In tears after a marathon victory over Marius Copil in Washington, Murray admits to camera in the small hours of the morning: “I feel like this is the end for me. My body just doesn’t want to do it any more and my mind doesn’t want to push through the pain barrier any more.”
At the time, Murray’s wife, Kim, persuaded him not to give up with his comeback efforts, but by the end of the year he had decided that the best he could hope for would be to soldier on until Wimbledon, where he would bid farewell to the sport.
However, once he had decided to undergo a hip “resurfacing” operation at the end of January, Murray started to think about the possibility of extending his career. As his mother Judy tells the film at the time: “My gut is telling me that he has unfinished business. He loves what he does.”
The film shows Murray’s surgeon, Sarah Muirhead-Allwood, telling him some weeks after the operation: “If you go back to playing first-class tennis I think you’ve got a 15 per cent chance that in the first seven years you could destroy the hip. There are chances. For seven years of tennis would you take that risk?”
While his reply is not shown, Murray said before viewing the whole film for the first time at a London premiere on Monday night that he had taken the view that he would “give it a go”.
Murray began his comeback by winning the doubles title at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club in June alongside Feliciano Lopez. The film ends with Murray in optimistic mood as he returns to singles competition in the United States this summer. “Six months ago I came to accept that I might never get to compete again,” he says. “I’m excited. Let’s see what the future holds. But I think it’s going to go well.”
It has indeed gone well. Last month Murray won his first singles title since beginning his comeback and last week he played his first Davis Cup match for three years.
However, Murray revealed on Monday that he had been troubled by a groin injury at the Madrid finals which meant that he was able to play only one match. He had a scan on what he described as a “bony bruise” in his groin which he had aggravated during his laboured victory over Tallon Griekspoor. He was subsequently advised that playing again might cause further damage.
Murray hopes the injury will not affect his preparations for the new season, which will begin in Australia in January. He is due to fly to Miami for a two-week training camp next week.
“I guess the good thing about stopping when I did was that it’s mild, so it shouldn’t be long [before I recover],” he said. “But with injuries and stuff, I know not to listen to everything you’re told time-frame wise or whether something’s going to work or not. I kind of understand that now and I’ll just play it by ear, take the best advice I can get and see basically what happens.”
“Andy Murray: Resurfacing” launches exclusively on Prime Video Friday 29 November