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By Stuart Fraser

Criticism of Judy gone too far

Since Andy Murray’s loss in January’s Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic, the criticism of his mother Judy has intensified.

On radio phone-ins, in newspaper articles and online blogs, critics have laid the blame at the feet of Judy for her son’s failure to win a grand slam.

It is criticism that is unwarranted and it has gone too far.  Judy is one of the most knowledgeable people on tennis in the country, yet she is dismissed by onlookers as a meddling mother who is desperate to experience success through her son.

In last Wednesday’s Press & Journal, a Scottish daily newspaper, I read the most ridiculous article I have seen published on the subject by a columnist called Nicola Barry.  Her thoughts can be read here:

It was an article which was clearly written by a writer who I doubt watches much tennis at all throughout the year.  Below are my responses to some of the points made in the article which I feel are massively ill-informed.

“BBC TV directors seem obsessed with capturing elusive shots of Mummy Murray having some sort of hysterical fit – an outbreak of barely suppressed rage, as the world once again conspires to prevent her son from winning what she craves.”

A hysterical fit?  An outbreak of barely suppressed range?  Since Andy broke onto the scene in 2005, I would estimate that I have watched at least 90% of his matches, either on television or in person, and I have never seen Judy break into some sort of stroppy fit when Andy loses.

And when has she ever came out and directed the blame towards anyone else for her son’s losses? 

“And when Andy loses, you can see the pain is not so much personal but more about what mummy is going to do or say as a result.”

Nonsense.  Does the writer think that Andy’s immediate thoughts after a loss is that of worry and fear about facing his mother?  Does the writer really think that Judy is waiting in the locker room to give her son a telling off after defeat?

“Poor Andy has his ubiquitous double act – girlfriend Kim Sears and his mother – both keen, both relentless in their pursuit of his success.”

We all want to see close family members do well.  It is a natural feeling towards those you love.  Kim and Judy attend Andy’s matches to support a boyfriend and a son.  How is that in any way relentless?

“The only thing he hasn’t tried to date is ditching mummy. He is 24 – time he emerged from behind mummy’s protective skirts.”

So this is the writer’s solution to Andy’s problems in overcoming the final hurdle in a grand slam?  To tell his Mum to leave him alone.

Personally I think that he has failed to win any of his three grand slam finals because he has not brought his A game on the day and has came up against opponents, in Federer and Djokovic, who have played stunning tennis.

It is not because his Mum is sitting in the stands cheering him on.

And Murray is currently aged 23, not 24.  It is no surprise though that in this article, a simple fact like a person’s age is incorrect.  There is something quite appropriate about it actually.

“But she needs to go and focus on her own aspirations, not live them through her son.”

If the writer bothered to watch tennis all year round, she would realise that it is the norm for parents to attend tournaments to support their children, particularly at the grand slams.  Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Djokovic have all had their parents watching from the stands and it hasn’t done them any harm.

It is a total myth to think that Judy travels the world following the tennis tour from week to week.  Outwith the grand slams, she only occasionally visits tournaments that Andy is competing in.  She is by no means living in the players’ box from week to week.

“But at least his disappointed mother didn’t appear in every single cutaway shot.”

That is the choice of the television directors to show Judy in several shots during Andy’s matches.  It is not as if she is waving frantically at the cameras to point in her direction so she can get on the telly.

She is a high profile figure within British tennis.  It is to be expected that there will be more shots of her compared to other parents.  It doesn’t mean though that she is doing anything different or wrong.  She, like the other mothers and fathers, is there to watch and support her son.

The article also mentions Andy in the same breath as Hitler and the Kray Twins.  That alone really tells you all you need to know of the thinking behind the piece.

It is time for people to lay off Judy’s back.  She doesn’t deserve the criticism which she has received recently.

The truth is that she is someone who can do a lot for tennis in this country.  Last month I watched her provide a tennis lesson for a primary four class at a Glasgow school where she was in her element.  Her enthusiasm rubbed off on the kids and they had a great time.

Judy is an inspiration to some and is a parent who is proud of her son.  What on earth is wrong with that?

Clay season gets underway

You know summer is on its way when the red coloured courts appear on your screens.

The European clay-court period is always an intriguing part of the season.  Some revel in it whilst some just can’t fathom a way to play on it.

There is one man in particular though that loves the red stuff.  Nadal is proclaimed as the King of Clay and it is no wonder after dominating the surface over the past six years.

It would be interesting to see his odds for completing the quadruple of Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros again this year.  He comes into this part of the season in good form having reached the finals of the hard-court Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami.

Nadal’s domination on the clay may understandably take away some of the fun from this part of the season for some, but there are several side issues which will make the next eight weeks fascinating.

First of all, how will Nadal respond to the challenge of Djokovic?  The Serb won Miami in stunning fashion with a three-set victory over the Spaniard and extended his 2011 match record to 24-0.  His confidence is at an all-time high and he will fancy his chances of taking that form to the clay.

But can Djokovic really beat the King of Clay on his favourite surface?  He came close to it in 2009 in a tumultuous semi-final in Madrid when he had three match points.  He failed to take any of them though and it was Nadal who came through in front of a very passionate home crowd.

If these two are to meet on the clay this year, it will make for a quality match-up.  It won’t happen in Monte Carlo though as Djokovic has withdrawn because of a knee injury which is understandable considering his hectic period so far this year.

Djokovic will return at this own tournament – the Serbia Open – which takes place in Belgrade from April 25 and will no doubt receive a warm homecoming.

How will Federer perform on the clay this year?  He has reached the semi-finals in all five events he has played in 2011, but has only gone on to win one of them – Doha in January against Nikolay Davydenko in the final.

That shows that Federer is still reaching the latter stages of tournaments but he has so far failed to make an impact when it matters.  His semi-final loss to Nadal in Miami was as tame a defeat as I have ever seen in the Swiss’ career.

But he is one of the few players to have beaten Nadal on clay.  And with only 970 points to defend up until the end of Roland Garros in June, there is very little pressure on the current world No.3.

Murray currently sits below him at No.4 in the rankings, but the Scot’s current form on the match court is not that of one of the top players in the world.  And it is not the best part of the year for Murray to be coming into on the back of the worst run of form of his career. 

Despite maintaining in his early days that clay was his favourite surface, he has never had any real success on the red stuff.  A quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros and a run to the semi-finals in Monte Carlo are his best clay performances.

But perhaps playing on a different surface will provide him with something fresh to really focus on.  Since being knocked out early in Miami, he has worked hard practicing on the clay and is confident that the practice he has put in will translate into match wins.

And it’s not just the top players to look out for over the next couple of months.  There are always a few clay-court experts who particularly enjoy this time of year and Nicolas Almagro will be one of those eager to make an impression at the big clay tournaments.

Almagro had tremendous success during the South American clay-court swing in February – winning in Costa Do Sauipe and Buenos Aires and reaching the final in Acapulco – and he will be one to look out for in the coming weeks.

Women’s injury woes

The WTA women’s circuit is experiencing enough of a struggle to compete alongside the high-profile ATP men’s tour.

And that struggle is about to get even more tougher in the coming weeks with the news that Kim Clijsters faces six weeks on the sidelines after injuring her ankle while dancing at a wedding.

She was already out until at least the end of April due to shoulder and wrist problems, but this latest injury now puts her at risk of missing next month’s French Open which begins on May 17.

And with Serena Williams still out of the game following emergency surgery to remove a blood clot in her lung last month, it looks like two of the game’s biggest female stars will be missing at Roland Garros.

Not good news for the women’s game which continues to be hit by poor crowds across the world.

Scottish wheelchair tournament

Good luck to all involved with Edinburgh’s first wheelchair tennis tournament at Craiglockhart this weekend.

The Edinburgh Wheelchair Tennis Open is being hosted by the Winning Wheels club and is part of the Tennis Foundation Wheelchair Development Series which features eight events across the UK throughout 2011.

The aim is that the event will encourage more disabled people in Scotland to take up the sport and it is even hoped that one day the event could become an official event on the ITF wheelchair tennis tour which would see some of the world’s best players come to Scotland’s capital.

For those who haven’t watched wheelchair tennis before, try and take up the opportunity to see it at Craiglockhart on Saturday and Sunday.  I watched some of it in Rotterdam in February and was hugely impressed, especially by the court coverage of the players.

Let’s hope that this weekend’s tournament is the first of many.