Grand slams shouldn’t be only focus, insists Judy
Judy Murray believes more focus should be put on improving British tennis at every level rather than the obsession with performances at grand slam tournaments.
Murray begins her Fed Cup captaincy in earnest today when Great Britain face Portugal in Israel but her role with the Lawn Tennis Association also includes working with the leading junior girls and mentoring female coaches. The improvement in women’s tennis has been a much-needed success story for the LTA in recent years, with Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong both breaking into the top 50 and teenagers Heather Watson and Laura Robson making rapid strides.
At least one British woman reached the second round in all the grand slams last year but there were more negative headlines recently after all four players were comprehensively beaten in the first round at the Australian Open.
Murray said: “The focus is always going to be on the grand slams because they have the biggest profile and they’re the events that get worldwide coverage and carry the most ranking points and kudos. But very few people win grand slams and I think we do have to look at the bigger picture and we do have to be aware of what it takes to get to the very top of the game.
“And we have to look what we need to put in at each stage. It’s about doing the right things at the right stage, at 12, 16, 18. Then we have to look at where are our girls are in the rankings and working out what we have to do better and address that. It’s always looking at what’s the next stage and aiming to go a bit further. That’s really what I want to try to help the girls do if I possibly can and help them and their coaching teams look at what is the next stage for them.
“So if Anne is at No 70 and she’s looking at 50, we have to find what little things need to be put in to get her to the next stage. I think everybody in the team has the capacity to improve on where they are just now and that’s what we intend to do.”
Baltacha, Keothavong, Watson and Robson make up Murray’s team for her first Fed Cup outing, with Britain facing Portugal, the Netherlands and Israel in round-robin matches, plus the potential for a promotion play-off if they win all three.
Britain have been in Europe/Africa Zone Group I for eight years in a row but hopes are high this could be the year they get their chance in World Group II. Baltacha, 28, said: “[Anne and I] have spent quite a lot of years in this competition. I think for the first time in a lot of years we have a really solid team now.
“And we all bring different things to the table, which is very exciting. We have a complete team and if we go out there with the right attitude and giving it everything we’ve got, I think we can get out of the group.”
The Fed Cup has long been the low-profile sister of the Davis Cup in Britain but, although Murray’s appointment has changed that to a certain extent, she knows there is still a long way to go.
Murray added: “One advantage of the Davis Cup format is ties are home and away and I think the men are about to have their sixth home tie in a row. So that makes it great for fans to get close and support the team.
“In the Fed Cup, 15 countries are in the same venue as us so we’re unlikely to have a huge fan base following us. So until we can get out of the group – then we’ll have home and away ties – it will be fairly low key.”
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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