Independent-minded Jamie Murray faring just fine

Jamie Murray, right, has reconciled that he'll never mount to the single's player his brother Andy is, but that hasn't blunted his tennis career. AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong

"It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea." -- Dylan Thomas

When people in the tennis world think of a player named Murray, they instantly think of Andy, a 20-year-old top-tenner with five career titles on his résumé.

But those in the know are also aware of the other Murray brother -- 22-year-old Jamie. A well-rounded Scotsman who seems to wear a permanent smile on his face, Jamie should not be overlooked simply because his niche has become the less high-profile doubles game.
Unlike the normally intense Andy, who has to live with the blessing and burden of being anointed the heir apparent to Tim Henman -- a role that translates to delivering to tennis-mad Britain a Grand Slam singles title or chance being viewed a failure -- Jamie can enjoy his career devoid of lofty expectations.

Sitting in an overstuffed lounge chair at the International Tennis Championships at Delray Beach, Fla., Jamie Murray comfortably discussed how life is grand, even if you're living it in the shadow of a younger brother.

"It's fine -- I'm obviously realistic, and I'm playing doubles," said Jamie, who teamed with new doubles partner, Max Mirnyi, to upset top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan at the ITC for his fourth career doubles title. "I've made pretty good achievements so far, won some tournaments, even the [2007] Wimbledon mixed doubles [with Serb Jelena Jankovic]. But I know that's nothing compared to Andy -- he's top 10 in the world. I'm not jealous or anything like that because that's the way it is."

British Davis Cup captain John Lloyd, who was a more talented player than brothers David and Tony, believes Jamie handles his less prominent circumstances with maturity and grace.

"What Jamie's done extremely well is kept the jealousy in check," said Lloyd, chatting on his cell phone as he walked the family Westie around his SoCal neighborhood days after returning from Buenos Aires, where Great Britain fell to Argentina 4-1 in the Davis Cup first round.

"He's enjoying his tennis life and has managed not to have that jealousy kind of gene. Look, anybody who has a brother or a sister, especially a younger one, could very easily be envious. But it's just not that way for Jamie."

Although it might be true that Jamie does not begrudge Andy his fame and success, he has proved he's not beyond reprimanding his younger sibling.

Fans and insider gossip are all aflutter as to whether there's bad blood between the Murrays after Jamie scolded Andy through the media for being a no-show at the recent Davis Cup tie. Andy floated a knee injury as his excuse, but Jamie thought the knee was playable and the decision was motivated more by not wanting to make the long trip, considering that Great Britain was the underdog.

At the time, Jamie said, "It kind of affects the way I feel about him." Andy responded while playing the Marseille, France, tournament -- which he won just a week after skipping the Davis Cup -- that he and Jamie would have to have a chat.

But all that said, Jamie left Delray Beach believing their small tiff was no serious family feud -- he said that Andy had left him a voice mail for his birthday on Feb. 13 and that he expected his "rent-free" status at Andy's London flat would not change.

"What I said I don't think was that bad, and I could've said a lot worse," Jamie said. "But I felt he should've been there to play the tie and he wasn't, so it was, basically, we had zero shot to win."

If the incident demonstrated a positive it is that the Murray brothers are independent-minded individuals who speak their mind. Jamie did say, however, that he doubted their mother, Judy -- who at one time was Scotland's national tennis coach -- was thrilled by his forthrightness.

"I guess it's up to me as to what I'm going to say," Jamie said. "At the end of the day, I didn't really speak to her too much about it, but obviously she would've probably had preferred I didn't say anything, but what can she do?"

For his part, Lloyd, a former Australian Open finalist, was not surprised that Jamie unleashed his disappointment at Andy for abandoning the team: "Jamie's opinionated. He has a lot of personality, and he has feelings about the way things should be done. Jamie just thought that Andy should be there."

Growing up in Dunblane, Scotland, a hamlet perched on the southern edge of Perthshire, the Murrays led an uncomplicated life, one in which their mother's passion for tennis became theirs by the time Jamie was 4. But when Jamie was 10 and both brothers were attending Dunblane Grammar School, the town was rocked from its idyllic existence when a deranged man entered the school and shot and killed 16 children and one teacher.

"Yeah, we were there that day," said Jamie, of being at the school, but luckily not in the gymnasium. "To be honest, I don't really remember it in terms of how I was feeling because, I mean, I was 10 years old and I really had no idea of how big a scare it really was. It was a terrible thing that happened, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. It was awful."

Naturally, in their early years, the older Jamie was the better player, but all that changed when Andy made the fateful decision to leave home at age 15 to train in Spain. Jamie -- who spent a few months at age 18 in Spain with his brother -- wasn't interested in making a permanent move because he wanted to remain behind with friends and family. "He went off to Spain and we didn't really see each other much [for three years] and then he obviously started to play at a much higher level than me. … He wanted to do it, which in hindsight was a very good decision because I think what he's doing now he sort of learned in Spain."

Whether a similar move to Spain would have altered the path Jamie's career has taken will never be known.

But studying his skill set, one can see that doubles is the perfect choice for strapping 6-foot-3 Jamie, who is nicknamed "Stretch" for his impressive wingspan. With a head full of thick chestnut curls, Jamie is frequently noticed by young ladies, but he insists he isn't currently looking for an exclusive romantic relationship.

In contrast, he is hoping his tennis partnership with Mirnyi will stick, at least through the 2008 season. When Mirnyi was asked whether he was worried that Jamie might abandon him to play doubles with Andy sometime during the year, it was Jamie who answered, with a laugh: "Max's got a little bit more game than my brother on the doubles court."

"He's a big kid, and he has wingspan," Mike Bryan said of Jamie after the Bryans lost the hotly contested ITC final in a super tiebreak. "He reads the game well and has had some good coaching. He's a natural doubles player -- a lot of his strokes would not translate to being a good singles player -- but it definitely works for doubles because he takes short swings."

In the big picture, Jamie Murray has transformed into his own man, under no one's thumb, in the world of tennis. And because of that, he has discovered that being identified as Andy Murray's brother isn't so bad.

"It still happens, but it's what I've grown up with, so it's kind of normal," said Jamie, getting up from his chair and stretching that wide wingspan that serves him so well in doubles.

Sandra Harwitt is a freelance sportswriter who spends much of her year covering tennis around the world.