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047 – THURSDAY 21ST JULY 2011
Another return to Scotland for Murray
The tears showed what it meant.
Here was someone who had left his family home in Dunblane at the age of 15 to move abroad to train at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona.
Since joining the tour in 2005, it has been a rare occasion when he has stepped foot north of the border. His last appearance on court in Scotland was back in November 2006 in the Aberdeen Cup.
Four years and seven months later, he returned at Braehead as Scotland’s top sportsperson. The reaction of the crowd said it all.
And in the end, it was all a bit too much for Andy Murray who broke down in his post-match on-court interview just moments after securing the Davis Cup tie for Great Britain against Luxembourg.
It was a poignant moment. Rarely do we see Murray display emotion of this kind on court. The mind was cast back 17 months when he had a cry during his runners-up speech following defeat to Roger Federer in the final of the Australian Open.
Murray experiences plenty of home support at Wimbledon, but this was home support of a different nature. You get the slight sense that there is still some awkwardness in the connection between the fans and Murray at SW19, with some ridiculously still not forgiving him for the ‘anti-England’ quip he made five years ago.
There was no awkwardness or reluctance in support at Braehead though. The famous Scottish passion was on full display throughout the entire week, starting during a visit to the Brodie Park public courts in Paisley where Murray was mobbed by hundreds of children desperate for a glimpse of their hero.
As his mother Judy pointed out, Murray already knew that he had plenty of support in Scotland, but to actually witness it in person was quite incredible for him.
Murray gave the Scots plenty to cheer about during the tie at Braehead. His two singles wins and one doubles victory with brother Jamie were all conducted in a highly professional nature.
Although he didn’t exactly come up against a formidable opponent in the shape of the unranked 27-year-old club coach Laurent Bram on the Friday, his triple bagel victory in just 52 minutes was impressive.
Even more impressive though was his straight sets win against Gilles Muller, the world No.81. Muller was no mug and Murray made sure he didn’t give his opponent a sniff by producing a stunning display of tennis. It even prompted one of my colleagues to say that it was one of his finest ever performances. I would agree.
Murray clearly revelled in the unique Davis Cup atmosphere which the Scottish crowd were creating. Now if we can transfer a bit of that extra noise and passion to the crowd at the All England Club, it could maybe just help spur him on to a famous Wimbledon victory.
As I mentioned before, we waited four years and seven months to see Murray back in action on home soil. The good news is we only have to wait another two months to see him back up here after the LTA announced that the Group Two promotion play-off between Great Britain and Hungary will be held at Braehead.
The atmosphere created by the Scottish crowd last week has played a major part in the decision and for this, they have been rewarded. And no doubt the decision was also made with the help of some say from Murray and the other Scottish team members. Scotland can be proud.
This will also help to further fuel the ambitions of Murray to one day host an annual ATP event in Scotland. As revealed by Simon Cambers in the Guardian last year (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/feb/13/andy-murray-scotland-tournament), Murray has given the possibility some thought.
And after last week’s Davis Cup tie, Murray reaffirmed his ambitions: “It’s something that would be interesting and fun for me. The thing is that I don’t know whether it will be when I’m still playing or after I finish. It’s just whether it makes sense or not.
“I don’t know how it works on the tour with getting new events. I have heard you need to buy the rights to certain weeks as you can’t just add a new tournament. But if the demand is there for it, why not.”
This is something which those involved in the game in Scotland, including Tennis Scotland, will no doubt feel a sense of excitement about.
As mentioned in Talking Balls 037 last year, the governing body for the sport in this country were disappointed that an opportunity to bring a high profile tennis event to this country had already been missed after tennis was not included as one of the allotted sports for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Although Murray had thought that tennis was part of Glasgow 2014 until I told him otherwise, he revealed that he would have given participation some thought had tennis been included. He said: “I would have considered playing, but it is quite difficult with the schedule and the ATP tour.
“They don’t do the best job at trying to put competitions like that into the schedule and trying to move things around as they are very set in their ways, so it would have been difficult anyway.”
This is a quote which should have games organisers full of regret for choosing not to include tennis in 2014. Although he acknowledges it may have been difficult to place it in his schedule, an opportunity to have a world class sportsman competing at his home Commonwealth Games has been lost.
And not just that – it also means that Colin Fleming and Jocelyn Rae are unfairly not given the chance to defend their mixed doubles gold medal on home soil. It beggars belief.
But let’s look forward to the immediate future. Murray will return, if fit, for another Scottish homecoming in September. After last week, it is something to savour.
The tour continues
This part of the tennis year is almost like an off-season for the top four players.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have all been pictured clowning around in the sea on holiday in recent weeks, while Murray arrived in Miami yesterday for the start of one of his intense training blocks after a break of around a week and a half following the Davis Cup.
But for the rest, it is business as usual as the season continues with events in both Europe and America.
The short grass court season is already over and players now have the option to return to clay for a few weeks before getting some preparation in on the hard courts in the run-up to the US Open which begins on August 29.
World No.5 Robin Soderling won his home event, the Swedish Open, in Bastad last week. The ATP 250 event impressively boasted three of the world’s top ten, including David Ferrer who arrived from the USA just one day after clinching victory for Spain in the Davis Cup quarter-final with victory against Mardy Fish.
Interestingly, his counterpart, Felicano Lopez, opted not to follow him across the pond. Instead Lopez chose to compete in the $125k Challenger event on clay in Bogota, Columbia. Unsurprisingly, the Spaniard won.
It was a successful week for the Spanish, with 31-year-old Juan Carlos Ferrero winning the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, beating fellow countryman Pablo Andujar in the final.
A result of note in Germany was the first round defeat of top seed Gael Monfils by Victor Hanescu. The Frenchman has recently split with coach Roger Rasheed and this result was not the ideal start for his new partnership with Patrick Chamagne.
This week, players have the choice of competing on the clay in Europe or the hard courts of America.
The bet-at-home Open - the title has raised some eyebrows - takes place in Hamburg, Germany and was formerly a Masters Series event which was held in May as part of the run-up to the French Open.
Although its relegation to an ATP 500 event means it no longer attracts all the game’s top players, it still has some appeal with six of the world’s top 20 competing in a field which has 48 players in total.
The Atlanta Tennis Championships marks the beginning of the six-week US Open series which leads in to the final grand slam of the year. The event is still relatively new on the tour, having only made its debut last year.
It is still struggling to attract the top players, although this is not surprising considering its place in the calendar and the fact that it is an ATP 250 event taking place in the same week as a 500 event.
World No.9 Mardy Fish is the top seed, whilst World No.34 Kevin Anderson finds himself as the second seed, which is an unusual position to be in for a player ranked that low.
Despite its low strength field, it is still an excellent tournament for the keen tennis fan to attend. Having visited the event last year whilst on holiday in America, I found it to be a friendly and intimate tournament which is well worth a trip.
Some Brits have made the trip over to compete in the doubles. Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins had a good win last night against Grigor Dimitrov and Ryan Sweeting and the pair will fancy their chances against Igor Kunitsyn and Michael Russell in today’s quarter-final.
Jamie Murray and Brazilian Marcelo Melo were the second seeds, but faced a nightmare first round draw against James Blake and John Isner which they lost 6-4, 6-2.
It’s a tough time for the older Murray brother who continues to float between different partners from week to week. At next week’s Farmers Classic in Los Angeles, he teams up with Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller. A partnership born at Braehead perhaps?
The AEGON Summer County Cup is taking place this week with men’s and women’s teams from 44 different counties competing at 15 grass court venues throughout the UK.
There is plenty of history attached to the event, currently in its 117th year, which is a real celebration of tennis and offers the chance for players, who may not quite be good enough to play professionally, to represent their county in a team event.
In saying that though, it is worth remembering that Andy Murray, who was then ranked No.3, considered the event to be of significant importance when he famously turned out for the North of Scotland at Eastbourne in 2009. Brother Jamie has also been a regular part of the team in recent years.
There are no Murrays at Devonshire Park this year though, with both brothers currently over in America. However there are still plenty of notable names competing.
Defending Group 1 champions Hertfordshire boast Arvind Parmar, David Rice and commentator Nick Lester in their ranks, whilst Chris Eaton is turning out for Surrey.
Group 2 also boasts some recognisable faces. James Auckland and Richard Bloomfield are playing for Norfolk and Dan Evans is part of the Warwickshire team.
Despite the wealth of experience that these players have, it can still be a long and testing week with some of them having to play three doubles matches a day over the course of a five day period.
There may be no ranking points or big money prizes on offer, but it is still a very competitive event with each county intensely battling it out against each other with plenty of pride at stake. Entry for spectators is generally free across all the various venues and is highly recommended.