Davis Cup win down to Murrays’ will to succeed

Star of the show at a reception at Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister yesterday, Andy Murray is giving a good impression of being in with the establishment bricks at the moment.

The Davis Cup winning team met the Prime minister at Downing Street yesterday. Picture: Getty
The Davis Cup winning team met the Prime minister at Downing Street yesterday. Picture: Getty

But then he can hardly avoid it. The great and the good are jostling to be seen with someone who is continuing to blaze a trail for British tennis. However, as he himself has expressed, doubt about whether the Lawn Tennis Association has the know-how to avoid being left in the Scotsman’s wake is another question. And if they don’t, what hope for Scottish tennis, with a fraction of the funding?

Murray has always operated on the outside. He is from a family that has relished overcoming the odds, who were happiest taking their own path. It is this that needed to be remembered after such an epic Davis Cup victory last weekend, and as LTA top brass delivered monologues in praise of what had just unfolded.

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But that it happened on people like LTA chief executive Michael Downey’s watch seems a complete coincidence, certainly going by Murray’s scathing words on Monday. He has only talked to him once – back in March.

It is thanks to one family, one house on a street in Dunblane, that the trophy has returned to Britain. It is down to Jamie and Andy’s willingness to succeed in spite of the system. It is down to Judy Murray’s encouragement, and that of William, the boys’ father, that they took up the sport.

It is down to the willingness of the parents to give their blessing to Andy’s move abroad to Barcelona at the relatively young age of 15, thereby cutting ties with the LTA. Indeed, his subsequent success has had very little to do with the LTA.

Even Davis Cup captain Leon Smith has seemed very quick to distance the success of his team from the governing body. “This isn’t an LTA thing,” he said on Monday, during that extraordinary press conference in Ghent, one that might, yet, have the desired effect. “This is a Davis Cup team. It’s about these guys. It is a team, it is down to what these guys do on court.”

Never mind the potential legacy of the Davis Cup. The truth is that there has been precious little evidence of Murray’s Wimbledon win in 2013 having been capitalised on. The LTA is still in discussions with the ITF [International Tennis Federation] about what is and isn’t permissible when it comes to use of Murray’s image, remarkably.

“We want to understand what visuals we can use moving forward,” said Downey, speaking as recently as Sunday evening. “We believe there’s a fair bit of freedom in that regard.

“We fully intend to activate it to the highest level and I think you’re going to see some of the things on the website today.”

As of last night, this website was showing a banner headline celebrating history having “been written”. Perhaps sensitive to the back page of nearly every newspaper yesterday, the LTA has also included a feature that allows website visitors to click on a map to find their nearest court.

But there is no point having courts if no one is playing on them. Now is the time to get the message out there. That is why it seems the players chose to do so on Monday, having been asked the right questions by reporters. That is why Judy Murray, less than an hour after Sunday’s victory, so impressively cast off her evident pride to issue her own concerns about whether the success will lead to something tangible happening in British tennis.

“What I really hope is that British tennis can build on it,” she said, the fingers of one hand curled round a glass of bubbly. “There’s an enormous buzz. Maybe not all of them play tennis but they love watching it and are now engaged with it. We need to make sure we can now capitalise on it and really grow our sport.”

But whether this happens, Jamie, one half of her talented brood, didn’t sound overly optimistic. He sounded concerned for Scotland, as well as Britain as a whole, earlier this week.

“I am not there, I don’t live there and I don’t go there very often,” he said, with reference to his Scottish homeland. “But I hear from people who are in the know and I guess throughout the country it is not happening as much as it could be. Whether there are the right initiatives in place, I don’t know.

“But I have said it a million times, it is a shame that Andy has done such amazing things in his career and for tennis in this country and to see no benefit.

“Now we have got a good chance to make the most of it. We have the opportunity to make tennis really popular in this country.”

Unusually, tennis has shot to the top of the British sporting agenda in December. It has emerged from its season of strawberries and cream.

The Davis Cup team’s success has invited, nay impelled, those who care for the sport to demand change. More significantly perhaps, it has helped encourage those who don’t care for the sport to start.

The Murrays and Co have ensured the question of British tennis’s future occupies us during these long dark nights, with the sport likely to again steal the show at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year later this month.

Never mind the LTA’s elated talk of history being written. It’s the future they must ensure is shaped by the success of a remarkable Scotsman, one who, never forget, decided to do it his own way.