Just the one win? Wimbledon victor Jonny Marray aims to make it a double
British champion and his third partner Colin Fleming hoping to build on a promising start
"Any questions?" A blue-sleeved arm shot up. "How many titles have you won?"
Jonny Marray paused, smiled somewhat sheepishly, and said: "Well, actually only one, but it was a big one."
The Sheffield doubles specialist, 32 on Sunday, was being modest. He has actually won 34 titles since turning professional 13 years ago, but all but one were in the backwaters of the Challenger and Futures circuits. The exception, the "big one" is the reason he was at the Britannia Village Primary School in east London yesterday. He was there to mark the inaugural World Tennis Day and do his bit to aid British tennis's quest to find the next Andy Murray, or Jonny Marray.
Last summer Marray became the first Briton to win a men's Wimbledon title since 1936 when he lifted the men's doubles crown with Danish partner Frederik Nielsen. While his life has not been entirely transformed since, it has been significantly upgraded. This time last year he was 83rd in the rankings, going out of little noticed tournaments in the first round and pondering his future. Now he is ranked 15, wheeled out for sponsorship gigs, and competing at Grand Slams and masters tournaments.
Next up is the Sony Open in Miami in a fortnight. That will mark the resumption of a new partnership with Colin Fleming. Marray needed a fresh partner as Nielsen is concentrating on singles and Andre Sa, whom he paired at the Australian Open, lacks the ranking to qualify the pair for masters. Fleming's usual partner, Ross Hutchins, is currently out of the sport while he undergoes treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The two made a promising start last month, reaching the semi-finals in Montpellier, and following that up by leading the eventual winners in the quarter-finals in Rotterdam before Marray suffered a calf injury.
During the lay-off Fleming won in Marseilles with India's Rohan Bopanna, but will be reunited in Florida with Marray, assuming the latter is fit. "I've had a few problems with my calf in the past and it is still not right but Miami is the target," said Marray when he broke off from an impromptu match with seven-year-olds. "It gave me the chance to have an op on a hernia problem that has been around for a while so that was the silver lining."
Doubles partnerships can gel immediately, or take time to develop. The Marray-Fleming combination has the advantage that both have been working under Louis Cayer, the GB Davis Cup doubles coach.
"The transition to play with any of the British guys is not that difficult as we are taught the same tactics by Louis," said Marray. "Colin and I are really happy with the way we played which is, hopefully, a very good sign for the upcoming months."
Marray hopes the partnership will provide the platform for a solid defence of his Wimbledon title and a long-delayed Davis Cup debut. Marray was called into the Davis Cup squad in 2004, but did not play. Nine years later he may finally start for his country against Russia at Coventry in April. "The Davis Cup has always been a goal of mine," he said. "I loved being a part of it in 2004 and, hopefully, I will get a chance to play this time."
The 6ft 2in Marray will be flying "cattle class" to Miami despite his status as Wimbledon champion – and the £130,000 prize-money. "I've done it all my career. It is not too long a flight." But the Ford Fiesta's days are numbered. "I have had a bit of stick about that. I've still got it, but it's about time for an upgrade."
Life and pensions company Aegon, Lead Partner of British Tennis, are delighted to be celebrating Britannia Village Primary School as the 15,000 participant of the Aegon School Tennis programme. Aegon supports tennis at all levels.
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