ANDY MURRAY: A HEROGRAM

Almost by accident, I saw Andy Murray win the US Junior title these many years ago. A skinny Scottish kid with determination in a sort of reverse ratio to muscle. Like thousands of other Scots, I began following his career with its tournament ups and medical downs. I bristled with the best of them when some of the English media beat up on him as his attempted gag about supporting "anyone but England" in a world cup rebounded big time. Some writers took a particular delight from then on belittling his talent, mocking his voice, decrying his droll brand of humour. Others, like the Guardian's Kevin Mitchell, got beyond the cheap stereotyping to recognise and admire the dedicated sportsman within.

But for Scots, Scots long deprived of sporting success - certainly in a team context - Murray became an icon and an inspiration. We felt defensive on his behalf. We agonised over every missed passing shot; were jubilant at every winner, most especially the "impossible" ones. We loved Andy. And we loved Jamie, and when both these special young men became world number one in their tennis discipline our cup ranneth over.

We loved Judy too; loved her ability to give a verbal two fingers to the blazerati when they treated her like a stray rather than the inspirational coach she was. Rather than a woman who had done the hard thousands of miles trying to grow a grassroots game whilst those in charge of the millions generated by Wimbledon and other tournaments appeared short of a clue as to how to invest them for sporting success. Andy, let's not forget, honed his skills alongside Nadal in Spain rather than as part of the LTA system. Jamie, badly let down as a schoolboy by the same crew, was almost lost to the game altogether.

In short, team Murray has been one of Scotland's (and the UK's) most extraordinary sporting assets, yet, as Judy has long argued, the sport has dismally failed to capitalise on its global success by building a lasting physical legacy. Even her own attempts to build a complex with Colin Montgomerie for tennis and golf in her own backyard ran into constant nimbyism before finally getting the go ahead. But it will offer a few indoor courts when we need hundreds.

This morning, as we watched a true sporting hero struggle to contain his emotions whilst announcing his imminent, enforced retirement, we too shed a tear for what had been, for what might still have been had his body been able to withstand the constant battering to which it had been subjected over the years of training and competing. Few top tennis players do not get serious injuries; it's a physical lottery as to where in the body they occur, and whether or not surgery and rest can restore them to the level of fitness required at the topmost heights of the tournament game.

Those of us who have had hip surgery to ease pain can only shudder at the thought of what playing through these pre and post operative barriers must have been like for Andy Murray. For most of us mere mortals, being able again to go for an enjoyable dog walk was the summit of our medical ambitions. We know enough of Murray to realise that for him to quit indicated the unbearable nature of what he was putting his body through.

But we know enough of him too to believe that his next career, however it develops, will also be extraordinary. He was assured of that by another sporting legend today, Billie Jean King, as she predicted great future things for a now former great champion. All true sports fans everywhere will say amen to that.