Published July 06, 2013
LONDON (AFP) – A scrawny, pasty-faced Andy Murray first made a Grand Slam impact when he was just 18 and on debut at Wimbledon in 2005.
He reached the third round where he gave Argentina's David Nalbandian, the 2002 runner-up, a huge scare by taking a two-sets-to-love lead before running out of steam to lose in five.
But amongst the first questions posed at a packed news conference was an enquiry far removed from the gentle confines of the All England Club.
The questioner wanted to know about Murray's recollection of his schooldays in the Scottish town of Dunblane, where he had been a pupil when deranged gunman Thomas Hamilton burst in and murdered 16 children and one teacher in 1996.
Murray was eight at the time and his elder brother, Jamie, also a professional player, 10.
He recalls surviving by hiding under a desk in the headmaster's office.
"Some of my friends' brothers and sisters were killed. I have only retained patchy impressions of that day, such as being in a classroom singing songs," Murray wrote in his autobiography, Hitting Back.
"The weirdest thing was that we knew Hamilton. He had been in my mum's car. It's obviously weird to think you had a murderer in your car, sitting next to your mum.
"That is probably another reason why I don't want to look back at it. It is just so uncomfortable to think that it was someone we knew from the Boys Club.
"We used to go to the club and have fun. Then to find out he's a murderer was something my brain couldn't cope with."
With such a childhood trauma, it is hardly surprising that 26-year-old Murray, who on Sunday will try to become Britain's first men's Wimbledon champion since Fred Perry in 1936, often comes across as a hard man to read.
Murray, with over $27 million banked from his career, does not suffer fools gladly and talks straight, his often unsmiling demeanour at odds with a man known as a joker amongst his close friends.
That granite exterior was softened -- probably forever -- when he broke down in tears after his loss in last year's Wimbledon final to Roger Federer.
He then became a national hero in August 2012 when he captured an Olympic Games gold medal, gaining revenge on Federer.
Murray has softened in recent times with his Olympic and US Open double put an end to the doubts.
His sense of humour was evident after his defeat of Jerzy Janowicz in Friday's semi-finals.
He was asked what he thought Perry would say to him as he prepared to face Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.
"Why are you not wearing my kit?," offered Murray, who is keen not to get too caught up in the Perry legacy.
"I haven't thought that much about it. Winning Wimbledon would be a huge achievement for any tennis player. I think winning my first slam after failing a lot of times at the final hurdle, I don't think anything will top that sort of relief or release that I had after that match."