Judy Murray has stepped down as the Great Britain Fed Cup captain, saying that she wants to spend more time with her family and focus even more of her energy on helping bring through the next generation of tennis players.
The 56-year-old was given the role in 2011 and had hoped to steer the country back to the World Group stage but, despite reaching the play-offs in her first two years at the helm, she has been frustrated by call-offs and the competition format, which she believes makes it difficult to get the home ties and generate the kind of interest whipped up by the men’s Davis Cup team in recent times.
With GB stuck in the second tier of the Fed Cup for the past 12 years, last month’s defeat by Israel has proved to be Murray’s last match in charge.
Confirming her decision, she said that she wanted to spend more time with her family following the birth of her granddaughter Sophia. She also wants to concentrate on her grass-roots initiatives, “Tennis on the Road” and “Miss-Hits”.
“I’ve loved the challenge of leading the team over the past five years, raising the profile of the event, our players and women’s tennis in this country,” she said. “It’s a big regret for me that we didn’t make it to the World Group, but what we have now is a pool of players capable of competing at that level. We just need them all to be available and fit to play at the same time.”
A mentor to several of the women she has captained, when she first took on the job, five years ago, she was able to call on the talents of Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong before the likes of Laura Robson, Heather Watson and Johanna Konta came to the fore. But she has been frustrated by the unavailability of players for key ties, with injuries and illness forcing her to select less experienced and even lower-ranked players.
The team qualified for World Group play-off ties in Sweden and Argentina, in 2012 and 2013 respectively, but lost both and had to return to the round-robin stage the following year. Robson was ruled out of the 2014 and 2015 ties with a wrist injury, while Konta, who reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open at the start of the year, pulled out of last month’s competition due to fears that she may aggravate “an ongoing intestinal issue”.
Mother to Andy and Jamie, who guided the Davis Cup team to their historic winning run in 2015, Murray’s dream had been to generate some of that excitement in the women’s equivalent but, in a statement yesterday, she said that the tournament needed to be overhauled if it was to benefit the women’s game.
“The Fed Cup format is in desperate need of a revamp,” it said. “Team competition engages players and fans much more than individual events. It’s crucial we use this global competition as a means of attracting and retaining girls in competitive tennis at every level. That requires more countries to have the opportunity of playing home and away ties so we can showcase our sport. The Fed Cup should be leading the way in promoting and showcasing competitive women’s team tennis at all levels and in all countries. Things have got to change.
“Everyone can see the buzz created around the home ties and team tennis at all stages of the Davis Cup. Fed Cup should be afforded a similar format.”
The LTA will now have to appoint a successor but with no fixture until l February2017, it is understood they will not rush into a decision.
LTA chief executive Michael Downey said: “British Tennis and our players have been fortunate in having a captain possessing Judy’s unique tennis knowledge, passion for the game and sense of fun steering our Fed Cup campaign for the last five years.
“No doubt she has left an indelible mark on all the players she has worked with on the team, the support staff and inspiring other GB female coaches along that journey.
“We aim to announce a successor well before the end of the year.”