When there was a knock at the door of Murray Mansions on Thursday morning, the reigning Wimbledon champion just thought that his taxi had arrived a few minutes early.
It was supposed to be the start of Andy Murray’s big day, the day he would be presented with the Order of the British Empire by none other than Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. The ceremony was to be held at Buckingham Palace and the Muzz was determined to be scrubbed, ready and bang on time for his royal moment. But, alas, when he opened his front door, he did not find a cheery London cabbie standing on his doorstep but, rather, a couple of drug testers clutching a small plastic bottle. It was time to drop ‘em and perform; time for yet another sample.
“They came about twenty past eight this morning,” the Muzz said with a chuckle after the investiture. “I had a car booked for half past eight so I was just about to start getting ready and, yeah, they just turned up. So I was a bit worried I was going to be late but the taxi driver did a good job getting round London.
“I wasn’t cross. It’s just something we have to do now. But when you’ve got a day like this to look forward to, it’s last thing you want to do but it’s part of our job.”
It is nice to see that despite the royal accolades, our Andy is the same as ever. Thursday’s trip to the Palace may have been one of the poshest dos he has ever been invited to (and he did look extremely smart in his dapper grey suit), but it is reassuring to note that he had only pencilled in 10 minutes for getting ready – taxi booked for 8.30am; Murray still only thinking about getting booted and spurred at 8.20am.
The announcement of the award – for services to tennis – was made in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list back in January and came on the back of Murray’s spectacular 2012 season. From reaching the Wimbledon final that July, he went on to win the Olympic gold in SW19 and the US Open just a handful of weeks later. But when a chap spends his time living out of a suitcase, it can take some fancy footwork to make sure that he is back in Blighty in time for one of the many investiture ceremonies dotted throughout the year, hence the 10 month delay in picking up the medal.
Still, if Murray was nervous before his big day, so was Prince William. This was his first attempt at the dubbing and daubing ceremony and there were names to remember, backstories for each recipient to mug up on and the constant fear that he would drop the medals or slice off an ear as he tried to knight some worthy dignitary. But when it came to pinning the gong on Muzza’s lapel, Wills’s eyes lit up. A great sports fan, the prince had cheered on the Scot at the Olympics and always tries to get to Wimbledon for The Championships whenever his schedule allows. And when he met Muzz, he was game for a long chat about forehands, backhands, back injuries and winning stuff.
“I thought he seemed very confident,” Murray said of Wills’s dubbing debut. “He spent quite a long time chatting with everyone. I got told that I was just over a minute that I spoke to him for and I was told it was only going to be like 15, 20 seconds. So he gave everyone a lot of time and, yeah, he seemed comfortable.
“He asked me how my back was – I just had back surgery a few weeks ago – and I spoke a little bit about that and he asked me how it was post-Wimbledon, how I’d had that pressure released. Yeah, that was pretty much it.”
Murray had what his management team described as “minor surgery” at the start of the month. Although he has never revealed exactly what the issue was with his back, the world No.4 is believed to have been suffering from a herniated disc and after two years of trying to manage the injury, he finally gave in and went under the knife to solve the problem once and for all. He hopes to be back in time for the Australian Open at the start of next year but Murray is taking no chances – if there is a hint of a doubt about his fitness, he will not go to Melbourne.
“It’s been three weeks since the operation now and I started doing rehab about a week ago,” Murray said. “I’ve been in the swimming pool, I’ve been on the bike a little bit but it’s still going to be another four or five weeks before I’m back on the tennis court hitting some balls so I’ve got a long ways to go yet.
“I hope I’ll be ready for the Australian Open but I’m not going to come back unless I’m 100 per cent fit. The rehab process is pretty tedious and long and I don’t want to come back too soon and have to start that process all over again. So, I’ll only come back when I’m 100 per cent fit and I hope that’s at the beginning of the year.”