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By Stuart Fraser

Murray plans for ATP event in Scotland

It’s amazing what the success of one man can do for a whole country.

Despite still not having a grand slam title to his name, Andy Murray has been responsible for a huge upsurge of interest in tennis in Scotland over the past few years.

Courts that in the past have remained empty for most of the year, apart from the weeks surrounding Wimbledon when everyone wants to give the sport a shot, have seen an influx of kids keen to play regularly.

It makes you wonder how big tennis will become in this country when he eventually does win his first slam.  It really is frightening.

Not only though have the people of Scotland taken to the courts, they have also shown their enthusiasm for live tennis with impressive crowds at the Davis Cup ties which were held at Braehead in 2006 and 2009. 

Despite Murray pulling out of last year’s tie with four days to go, the spectators still turned out in force to support a team whose highest ranked player was Josh Goodall at No.198.

The third-tier Futures events at Scotstoun have also seen good crowds turn up to take advantage of the grandstand situated next to one of the courts.  Reports from this year’s event in January were that the grandstand was full with around 300-400 people in attendance for the final between local boy Jamie Baker and Chris Eaton.

Now, Scotland’s enthusiasm is set to be rewarded with Murray revealing his plans to stage an indoor ATP tournament in the country, most likely in February.  He was quoted as saying: “I've spoken to a few people about it.  I think if you're going to do it you make sure you do it well.  If I was to do something like that I would want to make sure I'm really involved in it.”

On the court you can never doubt Murray’s determination to win.  Off the court he puts in a tremendous amount of hard work to make sure he is in the best shape possible.  If he does host his own tournament, you can be sure that he will put 100% effort into making it work.

And I’m sure the Scottish people will help make it work too.  Not everyone can afford to go down to London to watch either Wimbledon or the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena, so it would offer Scots the chance to see some of the big names in their own backyard.  I can see them turning out in their droves already.

Murray’s plans bear similarities to the Serbia Open which Novak Djokovic staged for the first time last year.  His family paid for the plot of land where the venue was built, bought the tour date from the Dutch Open and persuaded the Serbian government to support the event.  By all accounts, the event was a success in its debut year.

It will be interesting to see if the plans for a Scottish ATP tournament come to fruition over the coming years.  With someone like Murray behind them though, I have a good feeling that we will indeed be seeing the stars of the ATP tour on our own soil at some point.

Marseille organiser unhappy with Murray

Murray’s withdrawal from the Open 13 in Marseille last Friday caused a bit of a stir with the French tournament director quoted in the Daily Express as calling for him to be suspended by the ATP.

These were comments that Jean-Francois Caujolle later denied saying, but he did admit his disappointment at his top seed’s late withdrawal which is understandable.

This sort of situation is not ideal for tournament organisers who put a lot of effort into trying to attract a high quality field, particularly those who are organising ATP 250 events which offer the lowest amount of ranking points of the four different types of tournaments on the ATP World Tour calendar.

Caujolle’s frustration is even more understandable when you consider that Murray’s late withdrawal was followed minutes later by a phone call from Juan Martin Del Potro to say that he was pulling out through injury.  To lose your tournament’s top two players in an instant must be such a blow.

However, although I do have my sympathies for Caujolle, you have also got to understand the situation from the players point of view as well.

Murray has just been through a taxing month in Australia, both physically and psychologically, where he reached a grand slam final.  Over the next month and a half, he has 1,690 ranking points to defend at the ATP 500 event in Dubai next week and back-to-back Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami next month.

It’s a crucial period for the Scot and one that he must be fully prepared for.  He obviously felt last week that he needed another week of recuperation and recovery before he returns to action.

Del Potro’s withdrawal was due to a wrist injury that has hampered him in recent months.  Not only has he been forced to withdraw from Marseille, but he has also been forced to pull out of Dubai and is also likely to miss Argentina’s Davis Cup tie against Sweden at the start of next month.

But despite this, speaking about the withdrawal of Murray and Del Potro, Caujolle said: “I think the top seed and marquee player...they have to not pull out because all the promotion is framed around them.”

Come on.  Give them a break.  Murray clearly feels he is not ready to compete so why should he play when he feels he can’t give his best, and how the hell is Del Potro expected to play when his wrist is giving him so much bother?

Anyway, the ATP have confirmed that Murray has not broken any rules, as two withdrawals from ATP 250 events are permitted, as long as they are before noon on the Friday prior to a tournament.

Tennis is an individual game where players have to think of themselves in situations like this.  I’m sure Murray and Del Potro were well aware of the disappointment they would cause for Caujolle and also the fans in Marseille, but their own well-being is much more important.

Success for Murray and Marray in Bergamo

Good to see Andy’s brother Jamie picking up a tournament win on his 24th birthday, with Jonathan Marray, at the Bergamo Challenger last week.

The former British No.1 doubles player is slowly climbing back up the rankings, and a few more tournament wins should see him become a regular on the ATP World Tour once again.

In fact, it’s a shame that Andy pulled out of Marseille this week as he and Jamie were planning to play in the doubles event.  This would have been a great opportunity for Jamie to pick up some more crucial ranking points where just two wins would have guaranteed him the same amount of points he earned for winning four matches in Bergamo.

Instead, Jamie headed to Belgrade this week with Marray for a challenger.  The pair were top seeds but disappointingly suffered a first round straight sets defeat today to Ivan Dodig and Frank Moser.

This makes the 90 ranking points gained for winning in Bergamo last week even more crucial as on Monday, Jamie will lose the 90 points he has for reaching the quarter-finals in Memphis last year.

Despite this points loss though, Jamie has a great opportunity to climb even further up the rankings as he only has 45 points to defend from next week until the 10th of May.

If he does string a few more tournament wins together, it will also help put him back in the frame for the British Davis Cup squad, although I’m not sure his comments at the weekend will make him flavour of the month with captain John Lloyd.

Writing on Twitter, Jamie said: “Gb davis cup squad has 3 doubles can this be logical? captain been saying since last jan he would only pick 1dbs player.”

It’s a valid point considering that Lloyd dropped Jamie in favour of Ross Hutchins for the only doubles slot in the team for last year’s tie against Ukraine at Braehead.

It was a decision that Jamie would have been disappointed with, considering that he was Britain’s top ranked doubles player at the time.  I’m sure he was also gutted to miss out on the chance to play Davis Cup on his own turf.

Jamie’s comments suggest to me that he is still unhappy over that decision last year, and the inclusion of three doubles specialists in the team this time is indeed a complete contradiction of what Lloyd said last year.

However, since last year, we now have a successful all-British pair in Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski, and Hutchins is still regularly winning matches on the ATP World Tour with new partner Jordan Kerr.  The circumstances have completely changed since that tie against Ukraine, and Lloyd has understandably changed his selection policy in light of this.

All Jamie can do is to keep stringing the wins together.  If he does this, then it will make it hard for Lloyd to leave him out the team in the future.

Baltacha reaches new career high

I might as well continue with the Scottish theme in the final piece in this week’s Talking Balls and congratulate Elena Baltacha on winning the $100k ITF event in Midland last week.

Baltacha was in impressive form, only dropping one set all week, and has now lifted herself to a career high world ranking of No.70.  In fact, it’s been such an impressive start to the year, she sits at No.20 in the race to the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, ahead of several top players such as Svetlana Kuznetsova and Caroline Wozniacki.

She will be hoping to keep the momentum going at the $220k WTA Cellular South Cup in Memphis this week where she has a potential third-round meeting with top seed Maria Sharapova.  If ever there was a time for Baltacha to play the former world No.1, it is now.

Credit must also go to coach Nino Severino for the excellent work he has done with Baltacha.  His tweets on Twitter show him to be such a positive influence which must have helped Baltacha in her achievements so far this year.

If you are not one of Nino’s Twitter followers already, get on the case now.  You can follow him @nseverino