Wednesday, 1 February 2012


For Judy Murray, Israel holds happy memories.

This was the place where, in 2005, she witnessed her youngest son, a 17-year-old Andy Murray, show an early sign of his future promise when he teamed up with David Sherwood to achieve a famous Davis Cup doubles win for Great Britain in Tel Aviv against the established Israeli pairing of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.

“What I remember specifically about that is how noisy the Israeli crowd were, which is normal in Davis Cup, and apparently they are the same in Fed Cup,” says Judy, who has returned to the country this week to do more than just watch a match of tennis.

As the new AEGON GB Fed Cup team captain, Judy has a chance to show this week that there is more to her than just being the mother of Andy.  Most of us knew that anyway (if you are a Twitter follower of hers, you will know what I am talking about), but try telling that to those who have solely formed an opinion of a woman they only ever see camera shots of, showing her cheering and fist-pumping as her sons compete on-court.

This is a job which she feels perfectly suited to.  For years, she accompanied British juniors to tournaments in all corners of the country.  And as she chats at the team hotel in stunning surroundings – the view extends across the Red Sea over to the mountains of Jordan basked in glorious sunshine – she can’t quite believe the position in which she finds herself.

“I am certainly pinching myself right now; the hotel is fantastic,” she says.  “I’ve done the rounds of the junior tournaments and always trying to save money for accommodation, and we’re in the fortunate position where we are able to benefit from super surroundings like this.  It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.

“For me, it’s a new experience in terms of captaining a British women’s team.  I have captained several junior teams in the past but it’s the first time working with an adult team and, of course, that is quite a different challenge, obviously because the players are older and because I came into the role quite close to the tie.”

The stakes are significantly higher this time.  Here, Judy leads her team of Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Laura Robson, as Britain attempts to work their way up and out of the Europe/Africa Zone Group One stage for the eighth consecutive year.

Their chances have been aided by the draw.  Britain have been drawn in Pool C alongside the Netherlands, Israel and Portugal, and if they make it through the round-robin stage, will play a promotion play-off on Saturday, for which they have avoided a possible clash with Poland – who have world No.6 Agnieszka Radwanska - and Romania, generally seen as the two strongest teams in Eilat this week.

But this is regarded as a notoriously difficult section to progress from.  Even the presence of former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki last year was not enough to prevent Denmark from suffering relegation.  Judy is hopeful that her side can earn a World Group Two play-off, possibly on home soil in April, but rightfully remains cautious.

 “I don’t think any of the matches will be easy as every team has got some very strong players,” she points out.  “We did a lot of scouting of our opponents during the Australian swing and we have a lot of footage and information.  We have been able to brief our girls very well on the strengths and weaknesses of each opponent and hopefully prepare them as well as we can for what is ahead.

“I think we have a side capable of getting out of this group but it will be a difficult thing to do.  There are 15 teams in the group and only two will get the chance to get into a play-off for the next level.  It will be tough, but I think if everybody plays to their potential and stays healthy, then we have as good a chance as anybody else.”

Britain arrived last Thursday and preparations have went well, according to all.  The captain has been hard at work analysing video footage, and has been so focused on her job that she did not see any of her son’s epic five-set Australian Open semi-final match with Novak Djokovic last week.

Judy was courtside for Andy’s first few matches in Melbourne, but had to fly home early last week to be ready for her duties in Eilat.  A sacrifice perhaps, but one she feels is well worth it.

“I think if you are going to take on a role like this, you have to do it properly and you have to show the same commitment to the girls as you would hope they would show to you and the team” she says.

“For me, if I’m going to take it on, it’s just one of those things.  The ties are always at the beginning of February, it’s always going to clash with the Australian Open and I’ve seen Andy in a couple of finals there anyway, so I reckon if he’s going to win one of these things, it won’t make any difference whether I am there or not.”

The tweets and chat show that the British team appear to be a happy bunch.  Not that there wasn’t fun before under previous captain Nigel Sears, but the fact there is a roll-up dartboard in one of their rooms this year tells the story. 

But the real work begins today.

No comments:

Post a Comment