DCSIMG

Hebridean tennis court ‘prefers Federer to Murray’

The court at Bunabhainneadar. Picture: Mike Briggs

The court at Bunabhainneadar. Picture: Mike Briggs

  • by ALISTAIR MUNRO
 

IT IS Scotland’s remotest tennis court, carved out of the Hebridean landscape with a beautiful setting and views out over the ­Atlantic Ocean.

Andy Murray’s mother, Judy, was so impressed by a ­photo of Bunabhainneadar tennis court on the Isle of Harris said she would love to play there.

Now, Murraymania has reached even this furthest flung corner of Scotland with the isolated court seeing a boom in the number of people wanting to play there since the Scot’s Wimbledon victory on Sunday.

But the man who runs the club yesterday said he would rather have a visit from Roger Federer and his mother than from “Team Murray”.

Mike Briggs, 58, who runs the court, said it was benefiting from the Scot’s win.

“You expect courts in England to be busy after Wimbledon, but it even reaches out here in the middle of nowhere.

“I have had a lot of people phoning following Murray’s win, and a bunch of kids wanting to be Andy Murray have been asking to book the court.”

When she was sent a picture of the remote court last October, Judy Murray tweeted: “It’s stunning. I want to go there. And have a rally with a sheep.”

Mr Briggs, 58, who moved to Harris from Berkshire with his wife 21 years ago, said: “If Andy and Judy Murray want to come and play here they are most welcome – but they will have to pay the £14 like anybody else.

“I am more a Federer fan. If Federer said that he wanted to play here, I would welcome him – and his mother – with open arms. I would even play him, and give him a couple of games while he is distracted by the eagles and sheep.”

Mr Briggs also admitted he did not watch Murray’s victory against Novak Djokovic on Sunday. “I didn’t watch it as we don’t have a TV here,” he said. “I didn’t listen to it, ­either. I might get around to it some time.”

Mr Briggs, a qualified Lawn Tennis Association coach, added: “It can be windy and there are midges in August. But we get a couple of hundred people play each year.

“In the 15 years I have coached since the court opened, I think I have had two boys and a girl who could have been as good as Andy Murray if they had put their mind to it. They were extraordinarily good, but they chose other sports.”

Mr Briggs was instrumental in getting the court built 15 years ago. The facility is owned by the charity Buna Ltd, which was set up to provide recreational facilities for the people of Harris.

The £62,000 project was funded by the Scottish Sports Council Lottery Sports Fund, the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, charitable funds and ­private ­donors.

Eyewitness: Great views, but conditions can be tough

IT IS “Flushing Moorlands” rather than Flushing Meadows, but there cannot be many more stunning locations for a tennis court than Bunabhainneadar.

Past the old whaling station, before you reach the eagle observatory, sits a miracle of civil engineering. Improbably cut into the rocky landscape, the court offers dramatic and glorious views that are guaranteed to make even the best player take one eye off the ball.

The surface is perfect, in contrast to the tarmac courts of my youth in municipal Fife, still not resurfaced in the last 30 years.

But when the wind blows, the elements on Harris present a formidable challenge. It’s like skiing in Scotland – if you learn to play tennis in Harris, no other conditions will ever daunt you.

DONALD WALKER

 

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