Anyone who has watched him lose a point, will know that an angry Andy Murray is scary. So, imagine an angry Andy Murray staring and glaring straight at you.. it’s alarming. Had we cheered too loudly? Imagine an angry Andy Murray arms in the air, racket flaying around, stomping towards you.. it’s intimidating. Had we chomped our sweets too noisily? Imagine an angry Andy Murray ranting and raving, shouting and screaming at you.. it’s frightening. Had we clapped his opponent? Then imagine the relief when you suddenly realise his wife and coaching team are sitting directly in front of you! They were the intended recipients of his outburst! We weren’t about to be hit with a racket on live TV by the number one tennis player in the world! Phew!
I’ve only recently become interested in tennis. As a child, my racket would just come out for two weeks of the summer each year. The Wimbledon fortnight would inspire tennis tournaments in the local streets. I was dire at hitting anything though, so games barely lasted five minutes, before I gave up, bored of chasing after the escaping ball. In later years, Phil would sit watching tennis matches on TV, shouting at the screen, whilst I entertained myself in a different room. I didn’t share his interest. But then Andy Murray appeared and tennis suddenly became appealing. Now the UK had a golden boy. Someone to cheer for, someone who actually won matches, someone aiming for the top. And so I jumped on the band wagon, and started joining my husband on the sofa as he watched the sport. It took a number of years before I properly understood the scoring, or the strange words Phil would shout at the TV. Deuce, Match Point, Advantage, Set, Tie Break, Ace. We’d longed discussed going to see a live tennis match, so back in April bought tickets for the ATP finals. When we booked them we were half expecting that I’d be unable to attend; either I’d have deteriorated too much, or would be recovering from a transplant. But seven months later, happily I was still in a position to go. I had been feeling unwell in the run up to it, but was determined to tick it off the bucket list. And the night before we were due to attend, they announced who we would be watching. Murray! Amazingly our tickets had been drawn to be a Murray match!
Despite being excited, I went to bed nervous. Although we’d been to many different sports games and matches before PH, it was to be the biggest sporting event I’d attended since becoming ill. Would it be accessible for my wheels? Would they let me in with my oxygen? Would I get squashed in the crowds on my scooter? Would they have messed up my booking, and allocated me a seat at the very top, via hundreds of stairs? Happily, my worries were unfounded. The O2 Arena is a great example of how disabled friendly Britain is becoming. The disabled parking area was mere metres from the entrance, and half the price of normal parking. O2 Staff directed us to the most accessible routes around the arena, and at the end of the event, made a wall in the heaving crowds to allow my scooter to safely escape. There were clean disabled toilets everywhere, which could be accessed without the need to empty my handbag searching for my radar key! Phil’s ticket was complimentary as my carer, as I clearly would have been unable to attend alone. To stop my scooter running over people’s feet in the scrum for the bars; there was waitress service from our seats (And the chips portions were big!). And best of all, the disabled seating area was fabulously positioned at the front.. the row behind Andy’s coaching team and the production staff. We could read the announcers script (Phil wanted to change the words when it was left unmanned!), lip-read players swear words as they missed, and even make correct judgements about the ball being in and out- a number of times more accurately that the lines person! It was a fabulous view!
We had a truly fantastic time! Having been unwell recently, I assumed I’d be able to sit there sedentary, watching the slow and quiet rally between the two players. How wrong I was. Watching tennis on a screen is nothing like seeing it for real. It was so quick! At times, my eyes struggled to follow the rally, particularly during the doubles match we saw first. The ball constantly slammed across the court at over 100mph. No wonder the players squealed in pain when it occasionally hit them. We kept a watchful eye on the serve speed radar gun- Murray won our mini competition, walloping it once at 133mph! It was so noisy! Songs blared out to start the party, repeating snippets of music announced aces and deuces, heartbeats pulsed at each set point. 17,500 fans cheered and clapped, shouted out and sang. It was so bright! Colourful disco lights flashed and flared, sparkled and shimmered. Wooshies beamed out the score, lightbands glowed in the dark, spotlights roamed the seats picking prizes for winners. It was so exciting! The Murray v Nishikori match was thrillingly close. For over three hours their scores continually chased and reflected one another. Kei would lead by one point.. Andy would equalise, then Andy would lead by one point.. and Kei would equalise. It turned out to be the longest match in ATP finals history.. and we screamed and shouted and cheered and clapped all of the way through! Despite being weaker in the weeks leading up to it, the excitement and adrenaline kept me going to the final whistle. However the 13 hour visit caught up with me back home, and two days later I watched Murray claim the ATP Finals title from my bed!
Andy Murray might be scary when he’s losing, might be frightening when he’s glaring, might be terrifying when he’s flaying his racket about… but he’s also a fabulous tennis player, and we’d love to see him in action again! Having had a positive disabled-friendly experience at the O2, I’m keen to attend another big sporting event. So we’ve entered the ballot for Wimbledon next year.. fingers crossed! However if we are lucky enough to be allocated seats, we might try and sit further away from his coaching team! Then we won’t think he’s shouting at us, every time he misses!