Mother's sound instincts help turn British No 1 into a smash hit
Wednesday 02 July 2008
Were Kim Sears dating any other Wimbledon quarter-finalist but Judy Murray's boy, she might have expected a higher profile over the past nine days. Sears was there in the front row of the Centre Court guest's box for sure, as Andy Murray effected one of Wimbledon's greatest turnarounds on Tuesday. But the cameras lingered on the woman in the row behind her; an individual whose importance to Murray was summed up in the Christmas card he sent her two years back, thanking her "for always believing in me, always supporting me, always letting me make my own decisions".
Judy Murray was also foremost in her son's thoughts three years ago when, after beating Roger Soderling in Bangkok to enter the world's top 100 he immediately sent her the text which said: "I did it mum." Only natural, then, that when describing another of the extraordinary tennis turn-arounds in her younger son's life, a Davis Cup triumph over Israel's Andy Ram, she spoke yesterday of "my Andy" who was "playing fairly poorly that day".
"Her Andy" might have his mother on hand in Wimbledon fortnight as supporter, sock-washer and general factotum but the woman who has received hatemail for the courtside fist-pumping that has seen her cast as "the pushy mother", as she puts it, has other jobs on her hands for much of the rest of her year.
A successful playing career, in which she became Scottish champion, won 64 national titles and was joint winner of the ladies doubles at the British hard court championships in 1981, has helped Murray to her current role as the Lawn Tennis Association's performance coach in Scotland, dashing between clubs of to ensure young talent is being nurtured as it should. Her LTA blog provides a sense of the rhythms of life, jetting in to catch her son Jamie's doubles match at Estoril, Portugal, last month at the back end of a trip to see a Valencia academy.
Her coaching role also provides clues to her parenting principles. Murray's particular passion is enabling parents to help nurture their children's talent and a website she launched to this end last year revealed how she thinks it should be done. "Do say: 'Just go out there, darling, and do your best,'" she told parents. "Don't say: 'You know you're better than her, so just go out and show it.'"
Gloria Connors and Peter Graf this was not and the parents of some of Murray's Scottish protégés attested yesterday to the way her creed works in Scottish clubs. "It's done with a sense of fun and it's highly informal," said the mother of one seven-year-old Murray coaches. "She'll just send a note around to say 'Does anyone fancy a hit with me at the weekend?' No one's forced into it." Judy is also evidently loath to mention her sons in the conversations she has with parents.
Her outlook seems to be one of an individual who has known life both inside and outside the game. She was settled in a retail sales career and distraught to give it up and hand back the company car when the family moved to Dunblane, her old home town near Stirling, two weeks before Andy was born. She soon felt herself becoming an "active person surrounded by mashed vegetable" as she describes it in a 20-page section she is allocated in her son's new biography (not more proof of pushy mother syndrome here: Murray's brother and former coach Mark Petchey are also granted chapters).
When the boys started playing she ran a local Dunblane side. When they started prospering, aged eight or nine, she took a role as Scotland's national tennis coach; one which might have taken its toll on her marriage to the boys' father, William, which broke down around that time. Soon she was trying to convince both sons to develop their games abroad. Jamie rejected the notion of a US academy but Andy had encountered a 13-year-old Majorcan boy called Rafael Nadal several times during international youth championships. It was he who, after Britain lost to Spain in the European Under-16 team championships, persuaded him to give Barcelona a shot. Judy gave up her coaching role for a time as he prospered and soared up the world rankings, only to return to work with him established.
Most mothers would have blanched at the impromptu Popeye impersonation Murray put on after defeating Richard Gasquet on Tuesday. But not she. "He really has worked incredibly hard with his fitness trainers over the last eight months," she said yesterday. The bad news for the British No 1's new legion of fans is that Mrs Murray – who ought to know – has also predicted her son will not take this year's title – though mothers, of course, sometimes get things wrong.
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