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THE time is now.
That is the message from Judy Murray, mother of tennis luminaries Andy and Jamie, who is concerned that Scotland may be missing out on a massive opportunity to take advantage of the sport’s burgeoning popularity.
Never before has the country had a tennis player of such talent. Andy Murray is someone who inspires countless children across the country to pick up a racket, especially through Wimbledon coverage.
It is something for the sport’s governing bodies, the Lawn Tennis Association and Tennis Scotland, to grasp with both hands. Yet the lack of indoor facilities and the loss of a number of public courts in Scotland over the years has concerned Judy Murray enough to ponder whether we may be left regretting a missed opportunity when her youngest son’s career eventually comes to an end.
“I certainly think tennis is as popular as it has ever been during my lifetime,” she said. “Everybody is just so much more aware of tennis. The interest is there but to capture it, we have to make sure that tennis is accessible and affordable.
“This is the fifth year that Andy has been ranked in the world’s top five. In those five years, we have only had two new indoor courts built in Scotland and both of them were at Strathgryffe [in Houston] which is a private club. We are just not moving forward quickly enough in terms of facilities as there are not enough places for people to play.”
Murray was speaking after helping out at a tennis camp for children at Dunbar Tennis Club in East Lothian, an example of a community facility she is extremely passionate about seeing in more parts of the country.
“It is probably as important to me to get out and encourage community tennis as it is to try to produce the next Andy,” she said. “This is what it is all about – getting more people to enjoy tennis.”
Scottish tennis enthusiasts will have the chance to see top-class tennis on their doorstep, and be inspired once again, when Great Britain face Hungary in the Davis Cup on September 16-18 at the Braehead Arena, just two months after a patriotic crowd witnessed an emotional Andy break down in tears after clinching victory against Luxembourg.
“I think the atmosphere at the last one was quite incredible and the support that Andy and Jamie, in particular, got from the crowd was just amazing,” she said. “You could see that Andy was quite overwhelmed at the end. When they walked out for the doubles, Loch Lomond by Runrig was playing and Jamie said he really struggled for the first few games as it all really got to him about being at home.”
Before Andy returns to Scotland next month, he faces a crucial period in America culminating with the US Open in New York, which starts at the end of August. The world No.4 yesterday completed an intense two-week training block in Miami and flies today to Montreal ahead of next week’s Rogers Cup Masters event.
“He is working very hard,” said his mother. “He says the heat has been brutal, but he needs to train in that heat because, although Toronto last year was very hot, Cincinnati is like playing in an oven. You can hardly breathe. It is a tough stretch coming up.”