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Tennis Star Andy Murray Reflects On Elementary School Shooting Tragedy


And time for sports.


SIMON: The tennis world tour continues today. Andy Murray is currently ranked as the best player in the world. And Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us now to talk about Andy Murray's career on court and the amazing story of survival he represents.

Howard, good to be back with you. Thank you.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: People used to say, oh, poor Andy, poor British tennis - he always falls just short. Not anymore.

BRYANT: No, not anymore. And now he's the No. 1 player in the world for the first time. He's the first British man ever to be No. 1 since the rankings were started in 1973. Amazing story for Murray considering when you look at the number of players that he's had to go up against. He was ranked No. 2 for the first time in 2009, and no player had spent more time between world No. 2 and reaching world No. 1 than Andy Murray. So the feeling about him had always been that he was a great player.

We remember the Andy Murray histrionics on court and the not-suitable-for-words Andy Murray and the way that we spend so much time, very cruelly, in sports with using a very diminishing language - if you don't beat the top guy, then you're a loser. And there are other great players out there - Roger Federer, obviously; Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal. And he was in that group, but he was never quite good enough to beat those guys. And we spent so much time thinking about, well, maybe it's because he was such a maniac on court. And then he finally breaks through, and it's been a remarkable story.

It's been an incredible story looking at what Murray has done since 2012 - winning the U.S. Open, first British man to do that since Fred Perry in the 1930s; first Brit to win Wimbledon the next year, first Brit to do that in 77 years; then Davis Cup, first time since 1935 last year; and now world No. 1. It's been an incredible story.

SIMON: And not to define a whole life by a tragedy - a more remarkable story when you consider the fact that it was almost cut short when he was a kid.

BRYANT: Well, no question. And then I think that's - the story behind Andy Murray is that 20 years ago in Dunblane, he was part of the school shooting. He and his older brother, Jamie, were hiding when Thomas Hamilton went into the Dunblane preparatory school and shot 16 kids in the school gym.

And when you think about the life that might have been lost and you think about the children that did not survive and what they could have become, thinking what Andy Murray has done after that with his life, is just even more incredible that he would become the greatest tennis player that the U.K. has had in a century. And it almost never happened.

SIMON: Makes you think about what those the lives of those other children might have contributed to our world, too, at the same time, doesn't it?

BRYANT: Well, no question. Exactly, Scott. And it is bittersweet in a lot of ways. And I think that's one of the reasons why when you watch Andy Murray, the tennis player, now - I forgive Andy Murray so much of his on-court behaviors because the backstory is so compelling. We sort of refer to him as the real-life Harry Potter. He's the boy who lived. When you think about what took place, and especially what took place in Dunblane after in the U.K. with the gun laws changing and with the number of tragedies, the almost daily tragedies, that we have here and we still don't see a lot of change. Whenever you watch Murray, you think about what's possible - and his brother, who is also now the world No. 1 in doubles. What a remarkable story for their remarkable family.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine, espn.com. Thanks so much for being with us, my friend.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.