Glasgow’s SSE Hydro played host to the first annual Andy Murray Live event as the British Number one was joined on court by special guests in an evening of entertainment all in the hopes of raising money and awareness for UNICEF and the Glaswegian charity ‘Young People’s Futures’. With Jamie Murray, former British number one Tim Henman, and the mercurial Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria joining Andy on court, a 10,000 strong crowd lapped up the rare chance to see their heroes on home soil and were treated to a wonderful night of tennis.
An event three years in the making, born to Murray’s mind on the back of the continued support the Great British Davis Cup Team has received from the city, the twice Olympic Gold Medallist spoke openly about his desire to feed the overwhelming desire of the Glaswegian crowd for more tennis. ‘There’s huge enthusiasm for tennis here, but we didn’t have any events.’ Andy Murray said in his pre-match press conference. ‘Obviously it has taken a little while to get to here. But the support we have received from the Davis Cup crowd has been fantastic, and it’s my first time in this arena (SSE Hydro) and I am very proud to have brought a tennis event here.’
Jamie, the world number one in men’s doubles tennis, echoed Andy’s comments pre-match, ‘the weekend we had was incredible, the support we had here was phenomenal and I had never really experienced anything like it.’ Although the Davis Cup semi-final may have ended in heartbreaking circumstances for the Brits, when Argentina just edged them in a thrilling 2-3 defeat ending British hopes of retaining the competition, it seems that the Glaswegian crowd remains firmly in the favour of the Murrays.
The event itself was played in the best of spirits throughout, with Andy taking on Grigor Dimitrov in their second meeting in a month, followed by a timed doubles match between the Murrays and their guests.
Once tipped as the successor to Roger Federer, Grigor Dimitrov’s career may have stalled as of late, with the former top ten player now languishing outside of the world’s top twenty. But he had already beaten Andy Murray earlier in the year in Miami and as a late substitute into the event for the injured Gael Monfils, his host made clear his ‘huge thanks’ to the ‘entertaining player’ for agreeing to come.
Refusing to be daunted by the ostensibly Murray supporting crowd, he produced his usual array of shot-making to keep the Scot on his toes. In the US Open, Andy had to barely break a sweat in his dominant 6-1 6-2 5-2 victory, but found the Bulgarian a much different proposition in very different circumstances. Evident from the first point when Dimitrov moved the Scot around the court before powering a clean winner beyond his backhand, there seemed to be little suggestion of the players relaxing their game even for charity.
That’s not to say the match wasn’t sprinkled with the sort of play only seen in an Exhibition match, even as early as Murray’s first service game when he chose to try an audacious backhand smash rather than settle for an easy putaway. Or when the Umpire was happy to receive a bribe from Dimitrov in order to overturn a call in his favour; a move unlikely to be seen anytime soon on the ATP Tour.
In a surprisingly high-quality set of tennis, there was little to separate the two players until the tenth game, when Dimitrov produced a returning game of the highest quality to steal the first set points of the match. Whilst Murray may have initially dragged the game back to deuce, a wonderful passing shot left him with no chance and then an easy smash sealed the set for Dimitrov; much to the anguish of the crowd.
They would quickly be back on their feet at the start of the second set, when Murray broke in Dimitrov’s first service game to sneak ahead. An exchange of breaks ensured some drama, but the match eventually had to be settled by the Champions tiebreak in the final set.
There Murray produced some of his best tennis of the match as he secured a 4-6 6-4 10-9 victory, bringing a thunderous roar from the crowd that shook the Hydro to its very foundations.
Naturally, the doubles proved a less high-quality affair, as the players instead engaged in hysterics, but the crowd were instantly wowed when Dimitrov appeared before them in his very own kilt and perhaps even more so when Paralympic Gold Medallist Gordon Reid subbed in for Jamie. The cameo appearances of Gary: Tank Commander and then Ally McCoist merely left the crowd in stitches.
But the tennis barely mattered in an event fully focussed on raising the profile of the two charities, but Andy Murray remained firm in his belief that it should prove a useful platform for increasing the interest of tennis in Scotland. But could he and Jamie see a future where Scotland has its own ATP or WTA event? ‘I think it is a possibility.’ Andy remarked, with Jamie adding, ‘it’ll have to be indoors, though!’
‘But yeah, I think it is definitely possible.’ Continued Andy, ‘finding the right facilities to host it can be tricky. For indoor events, you obviously have to have more than one court. But when you’ve seen the events we’ve had here (Scotland) over the last few years (such as the Commonwealth Games), there won’t be many places that can sell-out seven nights of 8/10,000 seats. So yeah, there’s definitely an appetite.’
Given the excitement dealt out with ease at the Hydro, the appetite looks set to have reached unheralded levels.