Andy Murray: The (family) ties that bind

Story highlights

Andy Murray has won two grand slam titles

He has continually set records for Great Britain

Tennis star became a dad in February

Says family is now the top priority

CNN —  

Even before he became a dad last month, Andy Murray made it clear he would put family first.

With wife Kim Sears eight months pregnant during the Australian Open, the tennis star vowed to return to the UK during the year’s first major if she went into labor – even if that meant pulling out of the final and possibly depriving himself of a grand slam title.

It didn’t happen, and Murray dropped the finale to childhood pal Novak Djokovic on January 31, but the 28-year-old took a chunk of time off after daughter Sophia entered the world a week later on February 7.

“My No. 1 priority now is, I want to try to be a good father, a good husband. My family is obviously my main priority now,” Murray told CNN’s Human to Hero series.

When he returned to action the first week of March to spearhead the defense of Great Britain’s Davis Cup title in Birmingham – a couple of hours’ drive from his house near London – his mind was very much still at home.

(Mobile app users can watch video here)

02:59 - Source: CNN
Andy Murray: 'My family is my main priority'

“It’s been very exciting, things change so quickly, almost on a daily basis, so it’s been tough being away from her the last few days,” he said on the eve of the first-round clash.

“Even when I’m away for a day I feel bad,” he told British newspaper the Guardian. “I feel I should be there and I want to be there as much as I can. So when I’m leaving home at eight in the morning and getting back eight at night, I feel bad.”

Great Britain eventually won 3-1 over Japan and – as he did in the 2015 final – Murray almost single-handedly got the job done for his country. He clinched the tie with a five-hour victory against Kei Nishikori a day after combining with older brother Jamie to capture the doubles.

Jamie is closing in on the No. 1 doubles ranking after he combined with Brazil’s Bruno Soares to hoist the trophy at Melbourne Park; Andy watched the post-match presentation at about 1 a.m. despite having to get ready for his clash with Djokovic the same day.

Murray knows he will be playing much more tennis, and in the future it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sophia on the road with the world No. 2 and Sears.

More and more players are having kids – and traveling with them – including No. 1 Djokovic and 17-time grand slam winner Roger Federer, whose two sets of young twins made the journey to the Australian Open.

Murray hopes having a child will have the same effect on him as it has Djokovic, whose son Stefan was born in October 2014. The Serb won three grand slams last year, compiling one of the finest seasons in tennis history in the process. In downing Murray in straight sets Down Under two months ago, he picked up where he left off.

“I suggest it to every player: Get married, have kids, let’s enjoy this,” Djokovic joked to reporters in the wake of his third Wimbledon crown last July, before adding: “When I go back home, I’m not a tennis player anymore. I’m a father and husband. That’s a kind of balance that I think allows me to play this well.”

Unfortunately for Murray, in his first ATP tournament since Sophia was born he was upset by 53rd-ranked Argentine Federico Delbonis in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California last week.

No problem with traveling

The incessant travel weighs down some players, who tire of the journeys and staying in hotels most weeks of the year – even if those hotels can be some of the swankiest in the world.

But not Murray, which should bode well for when Sophia eventually joins him on the circuit.

“I love the traveling,” the Scot told CNN. “I love going to different countries. That’s the bit I think is the best part about being a professional tennis player, and from a young age I got to do that. I went and played tournaments in France and Italy and America when I was 11.

A childhood image of Andy Murray and his brother Jamie playing on the beach.
Andy Murray
A childhood image of Andy Murray and his brother Jamie playing on the beach.

“I was very lucky to get the chance to get to do that and as I got older – I traveled in South America when I was 15, Australia when I was 18 – I’ve pretty much been all around the world and that’s my favorite part of the job.”

Indeed, like his peers, Murray is a globetrotter.

He spends the majority of his limited free time in his mansion in Surrey while habitually training in Miami during the off-season. Not last year, though, since he didn’t want to be far away from Sears. He opted instead for Dubai.

Learning his trade as a precocious 15-year-old at Spain’s Sanchez-Casal Academy, Murray lived in Barcelona for two and a half years.

Dunblane tragedy

No matter where he is, thoughts of his hometown of Dunblane are likely never far away. Despite the tennis triumphs of its most famous son, it may forever be known as the town where Thomas Hamilton killed 16 people in the gymnasium at Dunblane Primary School in 1996.

Murray attended school on the day of the tragedy, and was fortunate to escape physically unharmed. The mental scars have lingered – he rarely discusses the tragic events, but shed tears when reflecting on the incident in a 2013 BBC documentary.

“Andy’s class were on their way to the gym,” his mom Judy, a former tennis player in Scotland who has been instrumental in her sons’ careers, told the BBC. “His class was stopped when somebody went up, when they heard the noise and discovered what had happened.”

Murray's gold post box in Dunblane was decorated pink to celebrate him becoming a dad.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Murray's gold post box in Dunblane was decorated pink to celebrate him becoming a dad.

Murray, who has earned more than $43 million since turning pro in 2005, said he hoped his standout career is “something the town is proud of.”

He can rest easy. A gold post box was erected in the center of Dunblane – population of roughly 9,000 – after he won gold at the 2012 Olympics at Wimbledon.

Murray chose to have his 2015 wedding to Sears – the daughter of prominent tennis coach Nigel Sears – in Dunblane and opened up a luxury hotel, Cromlix Hotel, close to the town in 2014.

Despite his individual success, including a historic Wimbledon triumph in 2013, Murray says he has most enjoyed representing Great Britain in team competitions.

MORE: From golf battles to triathlon glory for Brownlee brothers

The revelation may surprise some, given the issue of nationality has been a touchy subject for Murray in the past. He drew criticism in September 2014 for publicly backing Scottish independence hours ahead of the referendum.

And when he won Wimbledon, considered the most prestigious tennis tournament around, it ended a 77-year British men’s drought at the All England Club in southwest London.

Judy Murray has been a key figure in son Andy's tennis career.
Tony Marshall/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images/file
Judy Murray has been a key figure in son Andy's tennis career.

“The Olympics was amazing,” said Murray, who topped Federer in the gold-medal match four years ago before winning his first grand slam at the U.S. Open.

“I think there’s very few people who get the chance to do that at a home Olympics. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, really.

“Davis Cup as well was great. I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of winning Wimbledon as I did Olympic gold because there’s so much pressure there, and years and years of questions about that, if I was going to be able to do it.”

That pressure has now lifted. Soon, Murray will no doubt be chasing a crawling Sophia. And on the court, he’ll be chasing Djokovic.

CNN’s Human to Hero series celebrates inspiration and achievement in sport. Go here for times, videos and features.

Which athlete inspires you? Tell us on CNN Sport’s Facebook page

03:38 - Source: CNN
Scotland's Royal Wedding