Andy Murray's first week as Wimbledon champion has not lacked for incident or speculation, and the only certainty is that his life from this point on will be more dramatically different than even he probably suspects.
From being poked in the eye by an over-eager autograph-hunter outside a London restaurant – with the paparazzi illuminating the awkward scene in that familiar burst of flash that announces front-of-the-paper "celebrity" – to making the prime minister giggle like an Eton schoolboy and calling for him to be knighted, Murray has experienced the sort of attention reserved for the few. There will be more – probably much more – to come.
The Scot was honoured to be asked to 10 Downing Street, less convinced by David Cameron's suggestion that a knighthood is in the offing. Murray, the coolest dude in the Rose Garden alongside the guffawing PM, his normally morose sidekick Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, who could do with a good laugh, has taken a little while to shed some of his natural diffidence.
What is refreshing is his ordinariness in extraordinary circumstances. His family, friends and members of his team will testify that he is still Andy, not remotely ready to become Sir Andrew.
Murray had just deposited a cheque for £1.6m, first prize for beating Novak Djokovic in the men's singles final last Sunday, when we sat down to talk about the past, the present and the future. He laughed when he thought about the sudden increase in his wealth.
"I was sitting next to Phil Brook [the All England Club chairman] and Marion Bartoli at the champions' dinner [on Sunday night]," Murray says, "and he was talking about some of the past champions. He said: 'Yup, and none of them won £1.6m.' I mean, it's a ridiculous sum of money for winning a tennis tournament."
Since he joined the Tour in 2005 Murray has earned nearly $30m (£19.8m). Almost $5m (£3.3m) of that has arrived in the past six months. Add to that his endorsements and investments and it is safe to say Murray is travelling pretty well. Guestimates of his invigorated earning power swing wildly between £20m and £100m a year. But it is not the numbers that matter so much, it is what goes with them: the new choices, the vastly increased claims on his time, the shifting perceptions – and the effect on his tennis.
Murray says, for instance, he will walk away from the quick-format, end-of-year league proposed by one of his new business advisers, the Indian doubles player Mahesh Bhupathi, if it threatens to interfere with his winter training block in Miami. "What I agreed to is playing three nights in one place," he says. "So I'm not travelling across the whole of Asia in the space of a week. A lot of others play loads of exhibitions in December. I've never really done that. But, if I could be in one place for a week and take my guys there and train properly, it could work well. If I tried it and I didn't think it was working, I'm not going back. That's the reality. My training blocks are really important and I won't let anything get in the way of that.
"I'm sure more [offers] will come from winning Wimbledon but hopefully more people will be interested in doing things with less time. That would be the ideal scenario."
Murray never envisaged being in this position when he started playing tennis as an under-sized kid in Dunblane more than 16 years ago. Counter to the myth, he never dreamed of winning Wimbledon – not until it became more tangible, at least: "People say they dream of winning the World Cup but when you're young you don't really know. When I first went over to train in Spain and actually started becoming a professional tennis player, that's when I had different goals. I didn't think I was going to win a grand slam then, I just wanted to get into the top 100. That's kind of how my whole career has gone: top 100 was a goal, then top 50 and I just kept changing my goals as I achieved them. It's much better to do that than not get there.
"When I played here the first time, that was when I really wanted to win Wimbledon. When you're growing up, people say, yes, I wanted to win Wimbledon, but they don't really understand what that means until you get here and you're playing in the event."
Asked how many grand slam titles he might win, Murray says: "I just want to try to win the next one. I hope that's how it is for the rest of my career. I don't see a point in setting a number on it. I want to prepare for each one like it's my last."
Wimbledon, it should be remembered, was just his second major title. Murray will not rush to ignore the remaining claims of the two players who between them own 29 majors but who left Wimbledon early and bruised – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – even though he senses change.
"Rafa came back [from seven months out with injury] and made nine finals in a row and won the French Open. He wasn't 100% fit when he was playing here, that's for sure. He's 27 and, if he stays healthy, he's going to be at the top of the game for a long time. He has a great record against every player at the top of the game.
"Roger doesn't have such a good record against Rafa but Rafa has a good record against all the top players, so he'll be there. I think Roger will still be there or thereabouts in all of the slams, maybe just not as consistently as he was in the past because it's impossible to keep that up for so long. He did it for 10 years. Amazing."
As for Murray's longevity, he is 26, the age at which he always said he would have the best chance of breaking through. "The mid-20s are when you start peaking physically," he says.
"When I first came on the Tour, I wasn't particularly strong. I was weak, if anything. I had the game but you don't just become massive and unbelievably fit by working hard in one year. It takes time. You'll get injured if you work too hard too soon. So I knew that when I got into my mid-20s, I'd be fitter and that's helped. I wasn't that mature when I was 18 or 19. I was still young and struggling to deal with some of the things that came with it. I'm dealing with it much better. Now I just want to go on a nice holiday, stay in a nice hotel, have a nice few days off. I don't need anything else."
Nobody in British sport deserves it more.
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image: © Ian Dick