c) Kate, Flickr

Can Andy Murray be treated as public property?

When Andy Murray surprisingly lost in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon this year to Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets, the British public were quick to take to social media to express their disappointment at the result. But is the way we reacted actually acceptable or does Murray deserve to be shown more respect?

On Twitter in the hours following the game’s conclusion, where Murray lost 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 to the 13th seed Dimitrov, there seemed to be two different groups of people commenting. On one hand, you had those that have a bit of knowledge about tennis respecting the fact that Murray played poorly against a dominant Dimitrov. However, there were also those that arrogantly thought that Murray was a terrible tennis player and should go back “to being Scottish now that you showed last year’s win was a fluke”, as one rather angry person put it.

For a long time there have been numerous comments saying that just because Murray is a world class sportsman, we should not treat him as “public property”, allowing us to verbally abuse him as we please. But why does it always seem to be Murray who bears the brunt of social media abuse?

Well, there are two reasons for this: firstly, Murray is in a unique situation where he plays an individual sport which is extremely popular in our country, yet he is the only one from the UK in the top 100 of the ATP rankings, with British no.2 Dan Evans currently at 143. Even in other sports like golf, there is more than one British player near the top of the world game. But secondly, hatred is still felt south of the border thanks to a controversial comment made by Murray before the 2006 FIFA World Cup. It was in an apparently informal chat with Tim Henman where Murray said “I will support anyone playing England.”

And it seems that references to this “joke” will never die down, as 8 years later in 2014, most of the responses to the Wimbledon loss included a phrase along the lines of “so he’s Scottish now that he’s lost?” Although he built up his English support by winning the title in 2013, it seems that a lot of his “fans” are only interested in supporting someone who is winning – something Murray has struggled to do since returning from back surgery in January this year.

Something that most people seem to have forgotten, however, is that Dimitrov is not a bad player. Just two weeks before, the 23 year old Bulgarian won the prestigious Queen’s Club Championships (where Murray lost in the 3rd round to world no. 37 Radek Štěpánek). Dimitrov is widely considered to be the new star of world tennis with a maiden Grand Slam title seemingly on the horizon for this player.

And Murray’s defeat is by no means a “shock result”, as the world’s media reported it. Just the day before, in the 4th round of Wimbledon, the top seed Rafael Nadal lost to Australian wildcard Nick Kyrgios. So which result is more of a shock, the world no.5 losing to the world no.12 (Murray/Dimitrov) or the world no.1 losing to the world no.144 (Nadal/Kyrgios)?

Despite the shock loss, people on social media were commenting more on how well Kyrgios played compared to the mediocre performance by Nadal. Murray may have played a bit worse than Nadal, but surely people should have been congratulating Dimitrov for what was an excellent performance.

Andy Murray may be one of the country’s top sportsmen, but this does not give the British public the right to hurl abuse at him every time he plays badly and loses a match. Instead, look at how well his opposite man has played to get the win and think more about congratulating him instead of slagging off your fellow countryman. As the old saying goes, I would like to see what would happen if that person giving off abuse was put in Murray’s shoes…

Image: Andy Murray © Kate, Flickr

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Ruairidh Campbell
Based in the Scottish Borders/Glasgow, Ruairidh has written extensively on everything from rugby to politics with work published in publications including the Scottish Rugby Union's website, Scottish Field Magazine and Edinburgh Rugby's match-day programmes.
Ruairidh Campbell

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