The focus may be on Andy Murray over the next fortnight, but tennis fans know the huge debt they owe to his mum, Judy, who has produced not one but two Wimbledon champions (elder son Jamie won the mixed doubles with Jelena Jankovic in 2007). Judy coached both her sons when they were young and is Great Britain’s Fed Cup captain, but is also developing the grass-roots game with independent initiatives.
“I’m very keen that there’s a legacy of Andy’s success,” she says, “and that we capitalise on the buzz that’s around the game at the moment. But I’m aware he won’t be around for ever.
“We have some very promising youngsters coming through, but in order to become a strong women’s tennis nation we need many more playing the sport. Our biggest issue is bringing more girls into the game. Tennis needs to be more attractive to little girls and that was why I set up Miss-Hits [a fun programme for five- to eight-year-olds]. It’s been really popular and we’ve also trained around 200 coaches to deliver it.
“The idea was to mix skill-building activities with fun things like music and dancing, because there’s so much choice for girls, and they’re not as competitive as boys at an early age. They like being with their friends so the social aspect is very important too. Tennis is a very individual sport and it can be really daunting for very young girls.”
We were speaking at Eastbourne last week, where she was coaching the Under-18 girls’ team in the Grand Slam Nations Challenge, a round-robin event involving teams from the four Slam host nations – GB, France, Australia and the US. “I’d like to see more team competitions like this at the entry level and a lot more doubles, because the individual nature of the sport, being on court on your own, the ratings systems, all put a lot of pressure on young girls. So by this stage [14 to 17] we don’t have very many of them left.
“In order to be a strong tennis nation we need strength in depth and we don’t have that. An initiative like Miss-Hits is not the only solution, but it’s part of the solution.
“With girls attending 12 weeks of Miss-Hits you create a group with better co-ordination and an understanding of the game who, you hope, then get into mini-tennis. But mini-tennis has to be a great experience as well, and so does the next stage, and the next stage, if you’re going to keep them in the game.”
Murray has also done a pilot coaching scheme for 14- to 17-year-olds with female coaches, has set up Tennis on the Road in Scotland, which brings tennis to small towns and villages, and has negotiated the development of the Murray Tennis Centre, to be built as part of a new housing scheme, also in Scotland.
She sounds like a one-woman LTA, I say. “I’m trying really hard but I can’t do everything,” she says, laughing. “I work with some very supportive people, but we need a real commitment from the governing body to address the women’s side of the game.
“What sometimes frustrates me is that I feel we could be doing a lot more. There’s a real groundswell around women’s sport at the moment and we need to act on it.”
Murray says “nobody has ever asked me” about a senior position at the LTA, but then adds: “I’ll keep using my voice for women in sport for as long as I can.”Reuse content