Andy Murray believes tennis would greatly benefit from creating a docuseries similar to Netflix's Drive to Survive, but worries the sport isn’t open enough to grant the access necessary for a behind-the-scenes project like that.
Drive to Survive has been credited for Formula One’s surge in popularity in recent years, with TV ratings soaring in most markets – particularly the US – and interest rising among the younger demographic.
Murray gave unprecedented access to a film crew for the Amazon Prime documentary film Andy Murray: Resurfacing that chronicled his injury journey from 2017 to 2019.
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“I knew the lady that was filming it and was friendly with her and I trusted her - otherwise I wouldn't have done it,” Murray told Eurosport in an interview. “Because we'd spent so much time together, and I let her into my surgery and my lowest moments - stuff I would normally only speak to my family or friends about.
But because I trusted her and felt like I was able to be really open and honest and [I felt] that I wasn't going to get screwed over, I was comfortable opening up and being myself and I guess being vulnerable or whatever in front of her.
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Murray says he would be willing to be a part of a docuseries about the tennis tour, should the opportunity arise, having witnessed the impact Drive to Survive has had on Formula One.
“I would [be open to a similar docuseries in tennis] because I think that there is huge benefit to the sport,” explained the former world No.1.
Both sides - the athletes and the media need to – I'm not saying that not everyone understands it but we need to understand that it's beneficial to everyone for there to be that level of respect and that level of access. It's great for the sport as a whole.
He added: “I don't think tennis is open enough to allow access like that. It's a difficult one because, yeah, it's brilliant. A lot of people have spoken about Drive to Survive. I've watched a few episodes myself. I haven't watched the whole thing but I enjoyed it and, yeah, something like that would be really good for tennis.
“But for something like that to work, the people that are filming it need to get a lot of access. All of the players need to be comfortable with that. If they see themselves getting rewarded for it - maybe financially - then I'm sure they would be fine with doing it.
“A lot of players would [be open to it] but you also need to trust the people that are filming as well. There has been documentaries or docu-series in the past that have followed sports teams and it hasn't gone well. The football teams or whoever have come out of it looking terrible. So I think providing it's done well and that there's a level of respect and trust there between the athletes and the people that are filming it, I think it can be unbelievably positive.
“I would say that it's not likely that the players would agree to do that.”
Peter Bayer, the Secretary General for motorsport at the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile), understands the interest from other sports in replicating Formula One’s experience with the docuseries but isn’t too confident they will be able to pull it off.
“The success of Netflix has been huge,” Bayer told Eurosport on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last week.
Can you copy that? I think it’s difficult because it’s very much about being original as well and, at the same time, in F1 you have some very specific characters. Everybody is standing for a different value, standing for a different company, has different backgrounds. You have a multinational platform.
“I think it would be difficult to copy-paste that; maybe in another sport it could work, but then you also have to see how much access F1 and the teams have given. I couldn’t see many organisations being so transparent and say, ‘Put me a microphone and follow me all day with a camera’.
“I think it’s that mix of interesting information, mixing it with intrigue, sometimes maybe they’re exaggerating a bit but I guess that’s what people want to see. It’s a mix of reality, entertainment and sport and that’s what makes it so successful. Because sport is something that already carries a lot of emotion and Netflix has sort of taken away all the filters and is showing pure emotion and pure sport.
“You’re mixing it at the same time with a multi-million, or billion dollar business and that’s probably what makes this format so unique. Whilst I would wish to all my colleagues in sport that they would have the same, I think it will be difficult.”
Concern for Davis Cup - 'I am concerned'
Murray was speaking to Eurosport in Abu Dhabi, where he reached the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
The Scot has made numerous appearances at the exhibition tournament in the UAE capital and was asked to weigh in on the rumours circulating about Abu Dhabi potentially hosting the Davis Cup Finals next year.
The ITF and Kosmos – organisers of the competition – are looking to have four different European cities play host to the group stage of the Davis Cup before Abu Dhabi steps in as a neutral host for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
The move has generated lots of criticism and Murray added his voice to those sceptical of the success of having the finals taking place on neutral ground.
“I am concerned about the Davis Cup,” confessed Murray.
“I've obviously played here in Abu Dhabi and there are a lot of expats and stuff, and I feel like when I played here, my matches have always been well-attended and supported. It's been really good.
But I also experienced (the Davis Cup Finals) in Spain, which is a country that loves tennis. I played the Davis Cup there a couple of years ago, we played against the Dutch, and we played against Kazakhstan and it was by far the worst atmosphere that I’ve played in the Davis Cup.
Murray noted that having a partisan crowd passionately cheering on its home team was one of the most appealing aspects of the Davis Cup and is worried that has now been lost forever.
“I think it was the thing that made the Davis Cup standout for the players and everything and it was good for the sport,” said Murray, who led Great Britain to the Davis Cup title with victory over Belgium in Ghent back in 2015.
“It's not to say that you couldn’t host it here and have very good crowds, I'm not saying the stands will be empty. But it's just not the same when you don't have that partisan crowd.
So yeah, I worry a bit for the Davis Cup and for me it's not about that being in Abu Dhabi.
"It was a problem when it was in Spain too. I'm just sceptical about enough tennis fans travelling so like, if Spain were playing Russia in the final here, would you get enough Spanish fans travelling and enough Russian fans travelling to make it here? So I think that that's the concern for me.
Salah regrets for Murray
The conversation with Murray ended on a much lighter note as the Brit shared some insight into his fantasy football team for the Premier League this campaign.
Murray had the second pick in the draft he had with his friends. The person who had the first pick opted for Bruno Fernandes, which meant Murray could easily scoop Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah. He had 90 seconds to decide between the Egyptian and Harry Kane and ultimately went for the latter – a decision he admittedly now regrets.
“I was thinking, okay, he's scoring 25, 30 goals a season for Tottenham, [but] he’s going to be scoring 35, 40 goals for Man City [if he goes there]. I left it until the last second and I took Kane and am obviously regretting it,” revealed Murray, who added that Salah is his favourite player to watch at the moment.
I love watching him play because he's so exciting. I love his personality; he always has, not always, but a lot of the time he's smiling and he seems like he's enjoying himself. Yes, it’s tough not to love him for that. And he scores amazing goals and it's just fun to watch.
“I’m not saying he's the same as Lionel Messi but obviously they're both left-footed, both great dribblers and stuff. I find his personality like kind of similar to Ronaldinho.
“When I was in Barcelona, when I was 15, I used to go along and watch the matches there a lot. And I just always loved him because I watched him and he just looked like he was having the time of his life and just partying.
“I watched them warming up before a match once and the whole team were doing sprints and everything and he was just on his own, just playing with the ball, keepy-ups, dribbling, kicking the ball like way up in the air and then trapping it and stuff.
“Salah reminds me a bit about that, the way he goes about the game and stuff, so I love watching him. But I made a bad decision this year.”
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