EIBF 2017: Judy Murray, Holding Court

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What a splendid event with Judy Murray. Her two sons, Andy and Jamie, would have been very proud of her! It was a relaxed and confident talk which did her and Scottish tennis proud. Dressed in a white shirt with a grey trouser dungaree style trousers she was joined by Ruth Wishart as chair to discuss her book "Knowing the Score". The event, sponsored by Savills, was packed out.

Ruth Wishart introduced Judy Murray as someone who got all the way to Blackpool with "Strictly Come Dancing"! And, as Ruth said, the whole of Scotland was watching the exploits of the two Murray boys.

As soon as Judy Murray started talking it was clear that we were all in the presence of a very determined woman indeed. As she told us, her mother was a tennis coach and therefore she started early.

In the early days, she found that she had to give up her job in order to coach. She managed to get a place on a very select course with an otherwise all-male representation and she was told how fortunate she had been to get a place - in fact there had been a complaint that a place on the course had been allocated to a female! We now live in changed days.

She spoke of the intense rivalry between the two boys and soon after Andy won Wimbledon the two boys were playing table tennis when Jamie said in a fit of temper, "I am not playing with you again!" Andy's response was typical as someone who is right-handed, "Oh come on, I was just playing with my left hand!"

Talking about the chance that Andy had to go to America on a scholarship, she herself had been in the same position and so she was almost relieved when he said he did not want to go and preferred to stay at home and taking the advice that she could give him with regard to where to train and where to play.

In Dunblane, she spoke of the Gold Post Box which had been painted especially to celebrate Andy's Gold Medal at the Olympic Games in London; the site is apparently not too ostentatious as it is on the High Street in Dunblane where there are not many parking places!

Eventually she was appointed the Scottish National Coach. However, this really meant that she had control of very little and she had to start really from scratch. She had little money and was paid the princely sum of £25,000 per year. She set about recruiting young coaches and forming a network of centres across Scotland where young people could get help and some good coaching. Judy said that there had been few all-weather courts and no indoor courts had been built in Scotland since Andy had been in the top five in the world. We really are desperately behind in the provision of indoor facilities.

In questions from the audience, she said that she only rarely played with the boys, particularly Andy. This was because the last time she played with Andy and he sent several balls over the net which she could not get to, he said, "What's the matter? You used to be quite good!"

She admitted also that she used to fluff up the balls by putting them into the washing machine!

Asked how to deal with young children and at what age to give them a tennis racquet, she advised the mother that she should just allow them to develop naturally and to take part in all sports.

On whether women should play five sets or not she felt that it would be better if the men reduced their grand slam number to three, but the money should be the same.

Regarding negative press comment, Judy Murray said that initially it was hard to avoid this, however, when Andy was a junior champion she used to read all the press reports, but now she hardly reads any of them at all. It is hurtful and the press comment can be hard to live with. Although the top players receive a lot of money one must remember that they do have to pay for the travel, accommodation and all the expenses of their support team whereas in a sport like football these are all a part of the general support package.

Judy Murray ended with a reminiscence of "Strictly Come Dancing". She spoke of the time just two weeks in when she was asked to dance to the tune "The Mull of Kintyre", which she actually hates as a tune! Her partner said the whole thing would be splendid - heather, the kilt and some gentle tapping of a tennis ball from one side to the other. But no-one told Judy that the tennis ball would be enmeshed with glitter ball sequins and so when she came to hit it she hit the camera man instead!

This was an excellent event and it was splendid to see Judy Murray so relaxed and at home.