Judy Murray: Emerging from shadow of the sons

GIVEN everything she has done to aid their tennis careers, it’s only right that Andy and Jamie Murray have given their mum a boost when it comes to her role as the GB Federation Cup captain, even if they weren’t aware that was what they were doing at the time.

“I’ve picked up things from listening to them over the years and hearing about things that have happened when they have been part of the Davis Cup team,” she says. “Maybe it was decisions certain captains made or their opinions about all sorts of things but I would always listen and learn as I have done all my life.”

From her days as a coach, volunteering at Dunblane, to the level she is at now, Murray has pretty much had to educate herself, absorbing everything she has seen, heard or read, and using both the negatives and the positives to fashion her own approach.

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“I have learned a lot from the boys’ experiences, some good, some not so good, and I now try to make sure I don’t make some of the mistakes that might have been made with the Davis Cup team in the past. I think what else has helped me is the fact I’m a mum, because my role is really to look out for the girls, encourage them and help them. We are a unit and I’m pleased about that.”

Murray has taken Team GB to a final play-off match with Argentina this week, where victory would take them back into the world group for next year. She recognises the opportunity it presents for the game as a whole in the UK.

“We have two of the most exciting emerging young players in the world in Laura [Robson] and Heather [Watson], it is a big opportunity for us because young girls can identify with them. They are not just great players, they are great, fun girls and they are very normal, they like all the things that most girls their age like. And we can use their profile to encourage more girls to start playing the sport.”

Watson misses this week’s trip to Argentina with glandular fever but experienced Scot Elena Baltacha is back from a foot injury. That leaves Murray with some tough choices over who she sends out in the singles and doubles rubbers. But she relishes having a degree of strength in depth.

This is a key year for the likes of Robson and Watson, who had both made their way from outside the top 100 into the top 50 by the end of last season. It is a time for consolidation and also to build on increased confidence.

Much was made of Andy Murray’s 2012 Olympic gold medal and the push it was perceived to have given him ahead of winning his first grand slam at the US Open. But the swell in self-belief the silver medal Robson won with Murray in the mixed doubles was also tangible.

Judy Murray says: “For Laura it was a huge achievement because she was very young. She was 18 and she was playing against some of the biggest names in the game, at Wimbledon, with a home crowd.

“She loved the whole Olympic experience. She was completely absorbed in it, she was the one in the team who knew the details of pretty much every Team GB medal and was collecting all the pin badges from all the other countries and she could hardly move because she had so many by the end of it.

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“To come out with a silver medal was fabulous and I’m sure that gave her confidence and belief to start mixing it with the best players in the world. A few weeks later she was beating Li Na and Kim Clijsters at the US Open. I’m certain that the Olympics helped her.”

But, while individual achievements are one thing, it is the ability to bond as a team that is required on Federation Cup duty. For Murray it is also a chance to emerge from the shadows cast by her sons and dispel the public misperception of her as a pushy, clingy mum.

“It has probably shown a lot of people who thought I was just Andy’s mum who traipsed around the world telling him what to do which, as you know, I didn’t!

“I have been coaching for about 20 years so it has been good for me. I wasn’t expecting to be given the opportunity but when it came along, it was a real honour but also a real challenge. All my coaching experience has been in the junior ranks or the men’s side of the game and although I knew our female players I didn’t know them well at all so I spent a lot of time last year in getting to know them and their coaching teams because I firmly believe that you have to get to know them first as people.

“For many, many years our Fed Cup captains were male and all of the girls have said it is nice to have a female captain.”