If the world didn’t know who Andy Murray was before this summer, they’ve certainly become acquainted with him now. Murray used to be a low-profile Scot, but he has risen in the past few months to become one of the biggest names in tennis after years spent waiting in the wings behind Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Murray, who was long criticized by the British press for his failure to win a Grand Slam title, finally began to carve a place for himself in British and tennis fans’ hearts in July, when he lost to Federer in an emotional Wimbledon final. In August, he found redemption as he won Olympic gold on the Wimbledon lawn against Federer, and in September, he marked his biggest achievement to date by topping Novak Djokovic to win the U.S. Open title.
Through it all, Murray has enjoyed the steady presence of long-time girlfriend Kim Sears, and in the wake of Murray’s Grand Slam victory, Sears is seeing a rise in her fame to parallel Murray’s. In the days after Murray’s Open win, the British tabloids, have been full of rumors that Murray may finally be ready to marry the woman who has supported him throughout his entire career.
So just who is Kim Sears and why is she such an important part of Murray’s career?
Let’s start from the beginning.
Sears comes from a tennis family; her father, Nigel Sears, is a British tennis coach. She met Murray through British tennis circles back in 2005 when she was 17 and he was 18, and aside from a six-month split in 2009, the couple have been inseparable ever since. They live together in Surrey, near where Sears grew up, and have two dogs, Rusty and Maggie May. Murray can be hotheaded, and both he and his mother Judy credit Sears with cooling his temper. Not much else is known about their private life. The couple bask in as much privacy as they can get.
Sears’ and Murray’s relationship bears some similarities to that of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Like Middleton, Sears keeps a low profile – while Murray was off rising in the tennis ranks, Sears attended the University of Sussex where she earned a degree in English literature, but her true passion was art. Sears works as a painter doing portraits of pets and devotes the majority of her time to supporting Murray. On her website, she said she enjoys the simple things in life – the countryside, a good cup of tea and chocolate biscuits. Similarly, Kate Middleton whiled her time away doing odd jobs after graduating from university while the main focus of her life was William.
Sears’ quiet life is a perfect match for Murray’s personality. The tennis star is known for his anti-party lifestyle and shy, reserved nature. He does not drink, and in fact celebrated his U.S. Open win with a lemon soda despite paying for the rest in his party to enjoy over $1,000 worth of alcoholic beverages. For Murray, the soda was a bit of a splurge. He doesn’t normally drink soft drinks, but as he told the press at a party thrown in his honor at the British consulate in New York, he supposes he can let his guard down for the next week or so.
The shy Murray keeps a small inner circle of close friends and family whom he relies on for support and encouragement and also trusts to keep the details of his life private. Sears has never betrayed that trust. Like Middleton, Sears is well-known as Murray’s girlfriend, but she never uses her position to her advantage. She has avoided any controversy while dating Murray, does not do interviews and stays out of the limelight as much as possible. Middleton had to wait a long time to get engaged – she and William dated for a decade before marrying – and Sears is experiencing the same lengthy wait as she has stuck by Murray’s side for seven years.
And so Sears waits. Every relationship is different, and in another relationship, Sears’ patience could be considered a detriment. But as a tennis girlfriend, she fits right in.
That Murray has yet to marry is not too surprising considering the grueling and self-centered nature of the tennis circuit. Very few elite tennis players are married – of the top men’s and women’s singles stars, only Federer and Andy Roddick have walked down the aisle. Players generally only have the month of December off, and for the rest of the 11 months of the year, they travel around the world to compete. Since tennis careers are so short, Murray has a limited time frame to make his mark, and at 25, he is likely at the peak of his career. Marriage can wait, but tennis will not.
Sears clearly knows that. While Murray pursues his dream, she remains his rock and his confidante. She finds something constructive to do with her time and contributes to charity. She lets her personality and wit shine on a Twitter account she runs in one of the couple’s dog’s name, but still manages to keep attention away from herself and Murray by not having her own Twitter account.
Most importantly, both Sears and Murray seem to be very happy and comfortable together. It was heart-warming to see the two embrace at Wimbledon this year, and after Murray won the U.S. Open, Sears’ celebration with Judy Murray proved just how much of a place Sears has carved for herself in Murray’s life. There is an old saying that behind every great man is a great woman, and whether or not Murray marries Sears next year (as the British press is speculating), it seems Murray has found his great woman.