Throughout his tennis career, Andy Murray has understandably shied away from discussing the emotional trauma he suffered in 1996, the year when a gunman burst into his primary school in Dunblane and murdered 17 people.
But a new documentary – "Resurfacing", which will air on Amazon Prime from Friday – has finally tackled this sensitive question. In a tearful voice-note left for film-maker Olivia Cappuccini, Murray revealed that he sees his whole tennis career as an escape from the darkness of his past.
“You asked me a while ago why tennis was important to me,” Murray said, in an audio clip that provides the emotional heart of the film. “I had the thing that happened at Dunblane, when I was around nine. I am sure for all the kids there it would be difficult for different reasons.
“The fact we knew the guy, we went to his kids’ club, he had been in our car, we had driven and dropped him off at train stations and things. Within 12 months of that happening, our parents got divorced. It was a difficult time that, for kids. To see that and not quite understand what is going on.
“And then six to 12 months after that, my brother also moved away from home.” There is a pause at this point, as Murray’s voice cracks with emotion. “He went away to train to play tennis. We obviously used to do everything together. When he moved away that was also quite hard for me.
“Around that time and after that, for a year or so, I had lots of anxiety that came out when I was playing tennis. When I was competing I would get really bad breathing problems.
“My feeling towards tennis is that it’s an escape for me in some ways. Because all of these things are stuff that I have bottled up. I don’t know because we don’t talk about these things. They are not things that are discussed.
“The way that I am, on the tennis court, I show some positive things about my personality and I also show the bad things and things I really hate. Tennis allows me to be that child, that has all of these questions, and that’s why tennis is important to me.”
It is a remarkable revelation from a man who has only previously spoken about the Dunblane massacre in the briefest of terms – most notably when he choked up in response to a question from the BBC’s Sue Barker for the documentary “Andy Murray: The Man Behind the Racquet”.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Murray explained that Cappuccini has been close to him for four or five years, as the fiancée of his brother-in-law Scott Sears. And yet, even so, it had taken him many months to open up to her about the connection between his passion for tennis and these frightening times in his life.
“As things were getting worse,” said Murray, with regard to his chronic hip trouble, “it started to look like I was coming towards the end of playing. I was trying to explain why this was so difficult for me. In December 2018, she was there with us in Miami and I was like: ‘Look, I am not talking to you about this to your face. One, I feel a bit embarrassed about it. And two, I have not really spoken to anyone that much about it ever.’ So, that was kind of how that came about.”
Cappuccini, who attended the film’s premiere in central London on Mondy night, admitted that she was surprised to be allowed to run such personal material in her documentary.
“Andy hasn’t even seen the film the whole way through,” said Cappuccini. “Kim [Murray, Andy’s wife] has seen it but she’s only watched two cuts of it. At no stage did she say that’s a bit too sensitive. There are some very raw moments in there that are close to the bone for the family and I’m amazed that we were able to keep them in in the way we wanted to.”
Murray also revealed that his absence from Great Britain’s Davis Cup team during the majority of last week’s matches in Madrid had been the result of a “bone bruise” in his groin. The injury was “mild”, he said, and would not stop him travelling to Miami for his pre-season training block on Dec 5.