Judy Murray's autobiography in running for sports book of the year

Judy Murray will battle it out with a biography on Muhammad Ali and Four Mums in a Boat for the prestigious William Hill Sport Book of the Year.

Judy Murray at a tennis on the road event at Dalkeith High School.
Judy Murray at a tennis on the road event at Dalkeith High School.

The longlist has the highest number of female authors in the running for the prize in its history, organisers said, with nine books authored or co-authored by women listed as finalists.

However, the line-up is still dominated by male authors and co-authors, including Tom English, the former sportswriter for The Scotsman’s sister title Scotland on Sunday,

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Now in its 29th year, the William Hill prize is widely considered to be the most important sporting literary award and former winners include Nick Hornby, Paul Kimmage, Duncan Hamilton and Brian Moore.

Written with journalist Alexandra Heminsley, Murray’s autobiography, Knowing the Score: My Family And Our Tennis Story, tells the story of Andy and Jamie’s rise up the rankings – from promising youngsters in Dunblane to multiple Grand Slam champions and world number ones.

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“It’s very nice to be nominated. And it’s also great to see so many female authors nominated,” she told The Scotsman. “I always thought I would write a book, but I saw myself doing it when the boys had stopped playing. But I had so many people in the last three years saying ‘when you are going to tell your story’, especially parents. I was persuaded it was the right thing to do.”

Murray agreed that writing the book had been somewhat therapeutic.

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“It reminded me of a lot of things that I had forgotten about. In some ways it was good to get certain things off my chest. There were some things I wasn’t allowed to put in – for different reasons – that I would have liked to put in. But I probably was ready to let people know about everything that had gone into the boys getting to where they had got to.”
She added: “For many years I was painted as this pushy mother who sits in the box and cheerleads, telling them what to do. It was never like that. I have really been staggered by the response to it. I’m glad I did it.”

Murray’s competition includes Four Mums in a Boat, the story of four working mothers from Yorkshire who took on the Atlantic to break a world record, rowing 3,000 miles for charity and in turn captivating the nation.

Others on the longlist are titles celebrating iconic figures and teams from boxing, cycling and rugby history, including Ali: A Life in which US author and journalist Jonathan Eig paints a portrait of the world’s “greatest” boxer Muhammad Ali.

The excitement and euphoria of the epic 1971 British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand are captured by author and editor of Arena Sport, Peter Burns with BBC broadcaster and sportswriter Tom English in When Lions Roared, The Lions, the All Blacks & the Legendary Tour of 1971.

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Chairman of judges and co-founder of the award, Graham Sharpe, said submissions this year were of “an extremely high standard – excellent for the health of sports-writing”.

As well as a £29,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet, and a day at the races. The shortlist will be announced on 24 October.