THE road to Centre Court at Wimbledon has been a long and at times arduous journey for Andy Murray.
It has, perhaps, not been made any easier by a bald old duffer following his every footstep. That is, me.
The press pack attached themselves to the Scot in droves, hoping for the odd snippet, the straightforward quote or the unusual anecdote to feed on from the 25-year-old who first held a racket when he played swingball at just two years old.
I have been part of that culture and to look on to Centre Court on Sunday was to be filled with a sense of gratitude.
The experience of following sport has been enhanced by following Murray. Simply, he has not only changed my life but become a part of it. My head is filled with the details of the Scot: his birth date, his record against a selection of players, the list of his coaches, his team and their ages and duties, his Grand Slam finals, his major exits.
All this exists inside the napper of a man who finds it difficult to locate his car keys of a morning.
My passport, too, is filled with entry visas to foreign lands as I became a bit-part player in the tennis travelling circus.
Murray, of course, barely knows me. He is surrounded by media and I am just another face clamouring for his time. But his personality can be measured by one observation. Whenever he meets someone, he says: "Hi, I'm Andy Murray." Top sports stars normally assume everyone knows their name.
The first ever "Hi, I'm Andy Murray" came for me some years ago. He was just becoming famous. I had watched him progressing on to the world stage and an interview had been arranged for me with Andy and his brother, Jamie.
They were funny, informative and spent most of the interview slagging each other about musical tastes, golfing prowess and football. That interview was in Barnes, south London.
Since then I have spoken to Murray on the practice courts of Roland Garros, in the bowels of Flushing Meadows, in restaurants in the O2 Arena, in Wimbledon and in hotels in Paris, Glasgow and London.
I have watched him on the great courts in the world from a privileged position on Court Philippe Chatrier in Paris, to Louis Armstrong Court in New York, to the Centre Court at SW19, to the Braehead Arena.
He has always been unfailingly polite and only shows moments of sharpness when he is desperate to make a point. One of the frustrations about following Murray is that the perception of the outside public is so at odds with reality.
Some seem to believe he is surly, even rude. He is just shy, but can be very dryly funny. He is also a self-contained personality who is only fully relaxed with his tight circle of friends and family.
This praise for the world No.4 may be written off as a biased view by a fellow-Scot who is grateful for any scraps from the Murray table, but the world's tennis press, who have come to know me over the years, regularly approach my desk in Paris, London or New York to state how they hope "the good guy" wins a slam.
There are signs now that the public of Britain and beyond may now recognise the young Scot for what he is.
Murray failed in the sporting sense on Sunday. But he also succeeded in showing everyone that he is a world-class tennis player, a fighter and a consummate sportsman.
The Scotsman portrayed as dour and distant became in a moment a son, brother and friend who was sentimental, gracious and gently funny.
The road to the Centre Court had been accompanied by many observers. Murray's arrival at the next major final – and there will be one – will be followed by millions of others now.
It would be absurd for me or any other press man to say that we know Murray. However, the Scotsman has become less of a stranger to us and the rest of the watching public after this year's Wimbledon.
And his triumph on a day of desolation was that millions of viewers liked and admired what they witnessed with both a racket and a microphone in his hand.