Andy Murray took the tennis world by storm in 2005
Andy Murray is rebelling again. Not content with shaking the polite world of UK tennis to its core with fiery performances on court and refreshingly frank interviews off it, Andy is setting out to annoy his mother in an unusual way. He's growing an afro.
"I'm not going to get it cut until March, " he says with a laugh. "My hair doesn't seem to fall down to my shoulders though. It just gets bigger. It's like an afro but I wear a hat, so it keeps it down a bit. Mum doesn't like it, but I'm not that bothered."
Spoken like a true 18-year-old. But given the year Andy has had, he can be forgiven certain things in the hairstyle department. In the space of five months, he has risen 287 places in the world rankings (he is now number 64), beaten his childhood hero, reached his first professional final, slugged it out with the world's best and won the hearts of a nation at Wimbledon.
So is this what Andy expected to happen over the past 12 months? Of course it is.
"At the start of the year, I said I would be in the top 100 and a lot of people didn't think I could do it, " he says. "But I always thought I would. So I've proved a lot of people wrong. Now I've been home for a while, I've had the chance to look around and see what's been happening these past few months. I've been pretty impressed, and I just hope I can continue that next year."
It's on a sodden morning in Aberdeen that we speak. Andy is in town playing Greg Rusedski in the centrepiece match of the Aberdeen Cup. Dirty snow melts in the gutter and rain lashes through the Christmas illuminations along Union Street. In the midst of the mid- winter gloom, hundreds of spectators make their way to the exhibition centre to watch the shining star from Dunblane continue his ascent. It may be a dreary day in the northeast, but it's the final chapter in Andy's bright year.
It was during Wimbledon that Murraymania began in ernest. Andy didn't so much enter the public consciousness as dominate it for the fortnight. Pundits, ex-professionals and current players fell over themselves to praise the combustible 18-year-old.
Former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe predicted Andy would enter the top 20 next year, declaring that for Murray "the sky is the limit". All this euphoria seems strange when you consider Andy didn't get further than the third round. He admits people did get a little carried away.
"They were maybe expecting a little bit too much, but I think I dealt with it quite well, " he says. "It was quite hard around Wimbledon with everyone expecting me to win every match. But I did show, around that time, that I could play against some of the best players and deal with those situations pretty well too. I'm looking forward to going back and playing there next year."
But when it comes to his personal highlight of the year, there's only one choice.
"Getting to my first ATP final, " he says instantly. In early October, Andy surged to the final of the Thailand Open, vanquishing higher-ranked opponents along the way. The only thing between him and his first title was the world number one.
"At such a young age and playing against Roger Federer - he's probably one of the greatest players ever - was pretty special, " he says.
So confident is Andy, he went into the match expecting to breach one of world sport's most awesome weapons - the Federer serve.
"That's the strongest part of my game, so I was expecting to break his serve at least once and I had a few more chances to do that too, " he says. "But the best thing for me was coming back from a set and a break down and pushing him close in the second set. That was good."
Federer eventually won 6-3, 7-5 but added himself to the impressive roster of people predicting big things for the teenager.
And then, in October, came the most headline-grabbing event of Andy's year. In a tournament in Switzerland, Andy met Tim Henman, the British number one, on court for the first time. After a pulsating encounter in Basle, Andy beat his childhood hero 6-2, 5- 7, 7-6. Cue many people heralding the match as the moment Andy inherited Henman's crown. But for Andy, while the victory was sweet, it brought mixed emotions.
"Beating Henman was definitely the biggest win of my career, " he says. "I was quite emotional at the end as he's someone I've looked up to most of my life. I've supported him as well and was in the same Davis Cup team as him. We're good friends too. So it's always difficult to play against people like that."
So how has life changed for Andy this year? For a start, the iPod he was famous for striding on court listening to is gone.
"I used to do that all the time, but I've stopped that now, " he says. "I started to play well when I stopped using it. Bangkock was the first time I got to the final of a tournament, so I stopped after that. Besides, I actually listen to songs to try and relax me. I'm always pumped upwhen I go out to play anyway." As for his bellowing, aggressive, air-punching passionate outbursts, apparently they are going the way of the iPod.
"I've calmed down a lot since Wimbedon. If you watch me now, as opposed to then, I'm much calmer. I think I'll get calmer the more matches I play."
But has his level of fame impacted his social life? He keeps in touch with school friends via the internet. He has only been home two days this year, thanks to being on tour and then training in London, Barcelona and South Africa. But when he returns, he's instantly recognised.
"I only really get stopped in Scotland, not so much in London, " he laughs. "It's mainly younger people who notice me, as opposed to older ones. Which is good in some ways as I suppose that's the group of people I want to be appealing to to get more younger people playing tennis."
The sell-out crowd in the Aberdeen exhibition centre is packed with young Scots who adoringly cheer a hero not much older than themselves. Against Rusedski, Andy loses his first singles match, much to the crowd's dismay. But he's back the following evening to beat the British number two. Aberdeen, and the nation, swoons.
"Scotland seems proud of me, " he says. "They are always proud when someone does well, and in sport there hasn't been much to be proud of for the last 10 years. So I think a lot of people have taken an interest in me because I've done well this year."
The final sign of how far Andy's stature has risen this year, and what makes him the ideal winner of fresh's Young Scot of 2005 award, is to be found dotted around Aberdeen on the posters and flyers advertising the Murray-Rusedski game. Styled up like an old movie poster, they pitch the match as a clash of the Titans.
And it's Andy who gets top billing.
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