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New tennis hub huge for region - Judy Murray

By Grant Milne

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JUDY Murray believes the creation of a new tennis centre in Inverurie will be imperative to developing the game for the whole of the north of Scotland.

The coach, mother of former Wimbledon champion Andy, was at the Garioch Sports Centre on Monday on behalf of her self-titled foundation to deliver education workshops to Aberdeenshire's primary and secondary teachers in a bid to add basic provision of the sport to school programmes.

The sessions were being run in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council and the Inverurie Youth Sports Foundation, ahead of the new £2.5million indoor tennis facility which is set to open at the centre next year.

Judy says the new build will be a "massive shot in the arm" for the sport, and hoped that individuals will come forward to help improve tennis at grassroots level.

She said: “There haven't been tennis courts in the area for over 20 years, so it's an ambitious project with no tennis network.

“For the last 15 months we've been helping the Sports Centre to grow a network.

“We've been working with the rural local clubs and now starting to work with some of the pupils in the schools, the pupils at Inverurie Academy, and also the teachers in the wider catchment area.

“What we said is that we're looking for anybody with a pair of jimmies and a whole load of enthusiasm to deliver tennis in their school curriculum.

“We're very happy with anybody that comes along.

“[The workshop] was great, tennis isn't a big sport up here for obvious reasons, there's not loads of facilities and of course the weather is tough in the winter.

“The possibility of indoor courts here means there's a massive opportunity to grow the game up here, but you need to grow the workforce first before you can grow the interest and numbers as that's the way to make the place sustainable when it does eventually open.”

Tennis coach Judy Murray (centre) with Aberdeenshire-based secondary teachers. Picture: Paul Douglas
Tennis coach Judy Murray (centre) with Aberdeenshire-based secondary teachers. Picture: Paul Douglas

Although Judy is confident that the new centre can help increase Scotland's talent pool of players, she assured that the first and foremost purpose of the amenity is to provide a state-of-the-art premises in an area that has been starved of a dedicated facility.

“It is partly that [to increase the talent pool].

“But you have to remember that 99 per cent of players in this country are recreational.

“We get one or two who become really good, but for me the whole thing is about the grassroots.

“It's about the communities, the clubs and the schools, because if you can make that really vibrant and big numbers, then you have much more chance of getting some talent further up the ladder.

“Our focus is very much on grassroots, very much on building tennis in the community and making it a sport for everyone.

“For tennis to really grow in Scotland, you need to be able to play for 12 months of the year, people need the chance to coach for 12 months of the year, to run competitions for 12 months of the year."

She added: “My Foundation works with rural and disadvantaged areas to try grow workforces within local communities, so this fits into our rural philosophy.

“It's been a lot of fun, we've met a lot of good people up here who are keen to make tennis grow and today is just another step in the direction we all want to go.

“At the end of the day, it's all about people.

“Facilities are one thing, but it's people who make environments and make things happen, so we're very happy to come up as a Foundation and support that.

“They've got a wonderful team behind the facility project and we all want to make it work.”

Judy leads primary school teachers through a routine. Picture: Paul Douglas
Judy leads primary school teachers through a routine. Picture: Paul Douglas

JUDY said that she hoped tennis fans will embrace the new controversial Davis Cup format.

The international competition will be played out in Madrid over the course of this week in a round-robin.

The tournament had previously seen a knockout event contested by home and away legs, spread over several months.

Former players and fans have spoken out in opposition of the revamp, which was partially overseen by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique.

Organisers have admitted that ticket sales have been a struggle, particularly for the group stage sessions, despite the participating nations naming strong sides.

Germany's Alexander Zverev is the only player in the world's top 10 to opt out of taking part.

However Judy believed that the tournament can be a success.

“I think it will be interesting to see how its received by both the players and by the fans”, she continued.

“I think the Davis Cup was in need of some kind of revamp.

“What I always loved about the Davis Cup was the home and away ties and the atmosphere that both the home and away ties created, particularly if it was a home match.

“We're fortunate to have a number of home matches in Glasgow which created a real buzz about tennis in Scotland.

“I think we've all really missed that, but we have to give it a chance.

“People will vote with their feet – the players and also the fans – so we'll see.”

Featuring for Team GB is Judy's son Andy, just one month after his fairytale European Open success.

And Judy hailed his “remarkable” determination to get fit and find form ahead of the Davis Cup following a tumultuous couple of years where it looked as if the 32-year-old's career may be over.

She said: “He's had two really tough years with the injury and trying to find a solution to the problem with his hips.

“It's required incredible grit, determination and resilience and patience the whole way through it.

“He turned a real corner when he had the hip resurfacing in January, it took a long time to heal so he couldn't start playing again until early June.

“In October he's actually winning a tournament on the tour again which was really remarkable considering at the start of the year it looked like we had watched him play his last match in Australia.

“It's great to see him back.

“Do I think he'll still have a few years at the top? I hope so.”

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