“Me and my mates realised that there is a Scottish guy playing tennis and it drew me back into the sport more than I had been in years.
“Me and a couple of guys started sending a few emails back and forth, knocking up some images and we had such a laugh…”
That was how Edinburgh-based graphic designer Nial Smith began one of the most unique chronicles of Andy Murray’s celebrated career.
Since then his parody poster images have gone public and viral, catching the attention of Murray, his family and the tennis world at large.
Here he talks us through the inspiration behind the images, Grand Slam-by-Grand Slam, finishing up with Wimbledon.
“I like to hijack each Grand Slam’s own national history and heritage. If I can do that and put Andy in it, that is good.
“At the 2016 US Open I did a theme of album covers. Andy shouts so much with his mouth open, that he was a shoo-in for Gene Simmons’ role on the front of this Kiss album cover.”
“The joke was that it would be unrecognisable if it was any other player apart from Rafael Nadal. He is so notable for pulling his pants out of shorts, you just know it is Rafa.”
“The Australian Open was where it took off in a way.
“Mad Muzz – a joke on 1979 film Mad Max – was the first one I put out in public for the 2012 tournament. That did not get much traction, but the following year I put out Crocodile Dunblane.
“Andy said that he enjoyed it and I think he ended up being asked questions about wrestling crocodiles in press conferences.
“We have such a sporting rivalry with the Aussies and they like to have a go back so I think that is why their press have taken it on. It went a bit mad after that, being in all the papers.
“The Australian Open is the hardest in some ways, there are less bands or films to riff on than with the other three Slams.
“I used a cover on computer game Grand Theft Auto, which is internationally known, for one of the tournaments and that did well. If you can nail the wording and the style of the font, that is a key part.
“I have wanted to do one with 1994 film Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Andy in full costume on top of the bus, but I have not quite nailed it yet.”
“There is a bit of change in these, in that I have tended to focus on art.
“Nineteenth century French artist Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres featuring Nadal for the 2016 tournament was a bit of a pun on the fact that Rafa had had to pull out before the third round with a wrist injury. This was him wistfully taking an early bath.
“The way that Novak Djokovic moves is very balletic so he was easy to put into Edgar Degas’ Rehearsal of the Scene.
“The Les Muzzerables one for the 2014 French Open initially had Ivan Lendl in it, but I had to change it after Lendl unexpectedly quit as Murray’s coach the month before.
“The crowd scenes take more time to do but they are fun because you can play around with the different caricatures of the players and the character names.
“There are lots of little details in there. You can see all the flags have been changed for the relevant ones, including the Scottish flag. The ancient racquets are in there as well. But it is the pun that makes it – Les Muzzables is just a bit daft.”
“This James Bond was a deliberate take on a very British hero just before his first title at Wimbledon in 2013.
“I went back to the 1970s feel of Bond rather than the darker Daniel Craig stuff, with Andy’s head on Roger Moore’s body and a mish-mash of every baddie in the past.
“In all these posters, I don’t know these guys from Adam, but I have created this idea of Andy as the hero, Roger as the cool, too-smooth for school guy, Rafa as the bull, this beast who will not give up and Novak is just the nemesis, the evil genius.
“Zoolander 2, featuring Djokovic’s then-coach Boris Becker as evil genius Mugatu, was one I did for the 2016 Wimbledon tournament.
“It did less well hits-wise. Maybe it was just a bit too made, but it was a pretty awful film if I remember rightly which can’t have helped!”
“Now Andy is restricted to doubles I have been looking at famous double acts, which has been fun. I did one with him and Feliciano Lopez as Withnail and I for Queen’s, while he and Pierre-Hugues Hubert worked well as Sherlock and Holmes ahead of Wimbledon.
“I haven’t had a chance yet to do something for him and Serena though.
“There is a bit of a different, downbeat tone now as we don’t know what his future holds, he could retire at any moment if he decides it is not working.
“I don’t know if I will continue after Andy stops playing but I enjoy the ideas. It is a fun way to spend my time when I am not earning money!”