Only a few years ago, Scotland would not be the first country to come to the fore in discussions about any great achievements made in the tennis world.
But all that has changed, largely thanks to a certain Murray family from the small town of Dunblane. The phenomenal success of siblings Andy and Jamie has helped spark a massive rise in engagement with the sport across the country.
Participation and tennis club memberships are up and, from September, the GB National Tennis Academy at the University of Stirling will run a performance programme in conjunction with the Lawn Tennis Association, managed by Tennis Scotland with partners including Dollar Academy, to further develop the sport in Scotland.
Colin Fleming, former professional tennis player and current Fed Cup coach, will be involved in the new academy and he already does a lot of work with up-and-coming talent.
The eight-time ATP World Tour doubles champion will be playing once again at Brodies Tennis Invitational 2019 being held at Gleneagles Arena, Auchterarder, from Thursday, 13 to Saturday, 15 June.
The Scottish law firm’s event is attracting more big names this year to make it the tennis draw of the summer in Scotland. As well as Fleming, one-time world number-one Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero, erstwhile British ace Tim Henman, Swedish Australian Open finalist Thomas Enqvist and former French Open finalist Henri Leconte are among the stars of the sport who are planning the trip to Gleneagles in June.
Young Scottish talent will be joining these stars, as the Invitational continues to support the game at grass-roots level.
Fleming says: “It’s a great event that I’ve been involved in for the last couple of years, and I’m delighted to be part of it again. All credit to Brodies for bringing top-class players to Scotland.”
He also gives kudos to the “golden generation” of Scottish tennis players led by Andy and Jamie Murray, and Judy Murray as a coach, that has encouraged other British players such as himself and the likes of Jamie Baker and now Jonny O’Mara to come up through the ranks. But Fleming believes that more has to be done to develop the sport’s grass roots.
He says: “We know participation and club memberships are up, but at the same time, we have one of the lowest ratios of indoor courts per head of population in Europe. There is a lot of work to be done on the bricks-and-mortar facilities side to create better opportunities.”
However, he remains hopeful that the University of Stirling’s national academy and its grass-roots scholarship scheme will have a ripple effect across Scottish tennis.
Young players at the academy will benefit from having access to a range of expertise, including sports scientists, to help international-standard juniors progress.
“The high-level performance programme happening at the university is one piece of the puzzle,” Fleming explains.
“I’m pretty optimistic and there is good momentum now. There’s work being done by Tennis Scotland, the Judy Murray Foundation, Sport Scotland and the Scottish Government to take a joined-up approach to capitalise on the opportunities.”
And Fleming asserts that companies getting involved in the sponsorship of tennis is giving a major boost to the development of the sport north of the Border.
“For the likes of Brodies to get involved in tennis is a huge thing. It’s a great experience for juniors to be involved in the Brodies Tennis Invitational playing alongside former top players in the game.”
“Then there are the ball kids who are involved, which is such a big experience for them. You hear stories about Roger Federer having been a ball kid back in the day.”
Fleming goes on to say: “It’s hugely important to the future of tennis in Scotland that the business community continues to get behind grass roots initiatives.
“Having business support is critical in ensuring that young people have access to the best facilities, and that their talents are being encouraged and developed to their full potential.”