Judy Murray on coping with life in the spotlight

Andy Murray hugs his mother Judy Murray after winning the men's final at Wimbledon in 2013
Andy Murray hugs his mother Judy Murray after winning the men's final at Wimbledon in 2013
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As the mother of Britain’s most famous tennis-playing brothers – two-time Wimbledon singles champion Andy, and five-time Grand Slam doubles winner Jamie – Judy Murray has had her share of the spotlight.

Murray, 58, knows when she watches her boys from the players’ box – where the tournaments seat players’ families, coaches and other off-court stars – the cameras will capture her moments of anxiety, furrowed brow, fist-pumping and heartfelt applause.

Andy and Judy Murray at the Champions Ball in 2013

Andy and Judy Murray at the Champions Ball in 2013

Once perceived as pushy and cold, in her memoir, Knowing The Score, she recalls the first time she sat in the box during the 2005 Wimbledon Championships.

“We are used to seeing the energy of a father-son dynamic or the encouragement of a father with a daughter, but people seemed not to know what to make of a competitive mother who is unashamedly ambitious on her son’s behalf,” she writes.

“That summer, almost every single image used of me supporting Andy had me snarling, baring my teeth or looking pained. There was very little that was relaxed or celebratory, despite me being among people I knew and feeling hugely excited and proud most of the time.”

With 20 seconds between each point and 90 seconds to change ends, cameramen and commentators have to focus on someone, particularly as Wimbledon coverage has no advertisement breaks, she points out.

“If my kids had played cricket or rugby and I’d been watching in the crowd, no-one would ever have seen me or found me, which would have been lovely.”

And watching the action doesn’t get any easier, she confesses: “It’s like a mixture of severe nausea and a heart attack all going on at the same time and I’m actually surprised I’m still alive.”

Murray – whose “spectacularly dreadful” dancing (her words) on Strictly Come Dancing in 2014 earned her a new legion of fans – has taken steps in the last decade to reduce the chance of the cameras capturing her in an unflattering light.

“The first year Andy played at Wimbledon, the BBC very kindly in their highlights had done a slow-motion of me clapping with my hands above my head, and I had a vest top on. You know that in slow motion everything wobbles … it looked absolutely horrendous!

“I vowed from that moment on that I would not clap with my hands above my head and I’ve never worn a vest top to tennis since!”

A few years ago, she had her greying hair lightened to “white-hot blonde”, and got her teeth done.

“I had a very real terror of the dentist as a result of a really bad experience I’d had when I was about ten. Consequently in my adulthood, I avoided going to the dentist and had got to the stage where I was becoming quite self-conscious about smiling a lot.

“When I was in the public eye, I realised I wasn’t comfortable smiling, and made the decision to do something about it. It was a big decision, because it was 18 months of dental work, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done because it gave me a whole lot of confidence to smile again.”

She’s now happy when she looks in the mirror and isn’t contemplating any further cosmetic enhancements, she reveals.

“I’m happy with what I’ve got. I’ve got loads of laughter lines and crows’ feet but they are all just part of you. I sat with a scowled expression on my face watching tennis in the sun for many years but I laugh a lot now, so I’ve a lot of laughter lines which is just part of my history.”

Murray, who divorced her husband William in 2005, remains philosophical about finding another partner – meanwhile, her work life shows no sign of slowing down.

The former national coach for Scotland and captain of the Great Britain Fed Cup team (the female equivalent of the Davis Cup), she has long campaigned to grow the profile of women’s tennis and encourage participation, including developing the Miss-Hits and She Rallies initiatives.

“I’m not sure I’d be able to find someone who’d put up with me,” she says, laughing. “I’m all over the place and I love being busy and being able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. But who knows? Never say never. But I have six very close friends who keep me sane and I spend as much time as I can with them.”

Over the years, she has dealt stoically with the criticism that she was pushy, cold and controlling.

“I wouldn’t let anybody know that it hurt. I didn’t retaliate or react to anything written about me. I didn’t find my voice until many years later, when I became Fed Cup captain and Andy won his first Grand Slam. That gave me the confidence to speak out.

“I used to read everything and I used to just apply the common sense which was, these people who have written this, I’ve never met them, it’s not an interview, they don’t know anything about me or my life or my kids.”

But when Boris Becker said Andy Murray wouldn’t win a Grand Slam unless he ditched his mother (Murray went on to win three Grand Slams with his mother very much around), she was upset. Later, she told Becker how she felt when he appeared alongside her on a Clare Balding chat show.

“If I’d have known he was going to be on the show, I might not have agreed to appear. Anyway, I had a glass of wine before I went on, to give me a little bit of Dutch courage, and Clare called him out on it and I let him know just exactly how it made me feel. But he basically just claimed that he’d been right. He never apologised.”

Her main hope now is that Andy will have recovered sufficiently from hip surgery to play at this year’s Wimbledon.

“He’s doing everything he can to get ready. It’s always his aim to be back for the grass court season. Fingers crossed he can do that. It will be entirely up to him.

“The strength and depth of the men’s game is so great now that I don’t think any of the top players would come back until they are 100 per cent. You can see that if you come back too soon.”

And she’s far too savvy to predict who’s going to win this year’s championships.

She says: “I never make predictions until a tournament is under way and you actually see how people are performing on the surface and the conditions at the time.”