What Only Judy Murray Can See When She Looks At Andy Murray's Face
LONDON -- The conversation went something like this:
Me (via phone, a thousand miles away): Alec is sick.
My husband: Really, you think?
Me: He sounds funny. Look at his eyes.
My husband: What does that mean?
Judy Murray doesn't have to tell if her famous son, Andy Murray, is sick anymore. He has a wife to do that, and presumably, at 28, he is capable of diagnosing his own cold. At least let's hope so, for his sake.
But a child never gets too old to escape that power mothers have, even when he's a national hero, Wimbledon champion and Olympic gold medalist.
"You know your kids better than anybody else, and I can always tell, actually from his face, whether he's in a good place or not," Judy said Wednesday.
This did not sound the least bit unusual. I have always been able to tell if my daughter is going to cry a good two minutes before it happens. When she got shots as a child, she'd always try to tough it out until she got to the car. The nurses marveled. But she never fooled me. It was all in the face.
I don't believe Andy has cried recently on court, though often it looks as if he's about to. But no one besides Judy -- OK, maybe now his wife, Kim Sears, though I suspect it took her the full nine years of their courtship to master it and I'd wager she's still not as good as his mum -- can detect if something is off.
He also has a mother-to-be as his coach in Amelie Mauresmo, but she's going to be a mom for the first time, and you can't just acquire this skill like you're learning to juggle. It takes time and significant experience and it comes at a cost.
Judy Murray does not particularly like Wimbledon, even as her son marched to the title two years ago. Again, I can relate. I remember feeling nauseated at "Rufus and the Rainforest," the critically acclaimed second-grade play. OK, maybe that's not quite the same, but it was a pivotal role.
"I find it stressful simply because there's so much expectation on Andy especially, but I enjoy watching everybody else," Judy said of Wimbledon.
She said Andy has handled it well, even when he was thrown into the spotlight when he made the third round here as a teenager. And if you think an entire sovereign state counting on you isn't pressure, then try it sometime. Nauseated does not begin to describe how I would feel as his mother.
"I think everybody learns to deal with it in different ways and at different stages, but I think you can learn a lot by watching the other players and how they behave -- the people you admire and respect," she said. "I know Andy watched a lot of [Roger] Federer and Rafa [Nadal] and how they've handled their media and how they handled themselves on court.
"But that's what you have to do in whatever it is you want to do. You learn from the best, but you don't learn it quickly and you learn from your mistakes."
In the meantime, he always had his mother, who examined his face from the stands above and worried as only mothers can -- it hardly mattered if his serve was on if his face was off. London bookmakers really might want to put a wire on the woman.
"I think it's just a mother thing, but certainly in his tennis life it's quite easy to tell when he's on the court, even when he comes on the court, how he is mentally just from his face," she said. "I can see it in the face. You can't really describe these things, you just know.
"I don't know if we've ever discussed it. I think it's just one of those things."
I know, Mrs. Murray. I know.