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Interview: Judy Murray praises Colinton Tennis Club’s mini-court development as Scottish tennis strives to attract generation of young Scots

THE Murray itinerary this week includes Beijing, Delhi, Colinton and a spot of organised mayhem.

The last occurred as Jamie of that ilk celebrated his stag night, organised by his brother Andy. Beijing and Delhi speak to the brothers’ search for professional glory while Colinton helps carry the hope of a bright future for Scottish tennis.

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The matriarch of the Murray clan was at Colinton Tennis Club, Edinburgh, yesterday as it opened two mini-courts that will help attract a generation of young Scots hoping to emulate the success of Andy, the world No.4, and Jamie, who heads to the Commonwealth Games this week to represent Scotland and who has a Wimbledon mixed doubles title in his kitbag.

The mini-courts, costing £20,000, have been built with the help of the Pentlands Neighbourhood Partnership and with the enthusiasm, professional help and fund-raising ingenuity of the members.

The development offers much for the club but it is also part of a stirring in Scottish tennis that needs much encouragement. The Murray factor has helped Colinton’s junior membership rise by 87% with 150 youngsters now playing at the club. But Scottish tennis needs much more to capitalise on the effect of having an authentic world-class player as a local hero.

Judy Murray praised the initiative at Colinton that addresses the first step in producing tennis players: giving children the opportunity to play.

“The beauty of the mini-courts is that it is so much easier for children to learn on them. It is a court that is appropriate to their size and they have the sponge balls and the short rackets. It helps them develop the skills,” she said yesterday.

“In my day, I did not start playing until I was 10 because of the weight of the wooden rackets and the size of the courts. This development allows kids to play tennis competently and develop skills at a much earlier age.”

It is also important for the sport at large because it means children can be attracted to tennis. “The bigger your base, the easier it is to get someone through at the top end,” Murray said.

However, Scotland stands at a crossroads with the Murray factor. Just how can this be used to develop a culture of children playing tennis for health, fun and, perhaps, glory?

“This is a huge opportunity for tennis in Scotland to really grow the game and improve facilities,” said Murray, acknowledging without bombast the impact of her sons.

Murray said two factors needed to be addressed: facilities and encouragement.

“First, it is about investing in places to play,” she said. “If kids are interested then they are going to find their local club and it is important that these clubs are supported to keep their doors open and to have activities. A lot of that activity is down to coaches and enthusiastic parents. It’s about people making things happen so the kids come down to the club and stay there and play. Tennis is attracting youngsters but there are not enough places for them to play at the moment.

“There needs to be more investment in clubs, more encouragement for clubs to do things like you see here in Colinton where you have a lot of parents and a lot of coaches out helping. Kids come down to the club and there must be something happening.”

The Scottish weather, though, provides an obstacle that must be overcome. “We must invest in indoor facilities,” said Murray. “There is a huge upsurge in the game but once the dark nights come and the rain and snow starts we could do with more indoor facilities. There are only six pay-and-play indoor facilities in Scotland. It is nowhere near enough.”

Murray is aware that budget cuts are looming for everyone but her appeal for funding for sports has little to do with producing another Andy Murray.

“Sport is such an important part of a child’s life in terms of exercising, socialising and developing self-esteem,” she said. Her dream is to make sport accessible and affordable for every child.

Her children will be travelling east this week on professional duty. Jamie is part of the Scotland team heading to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games and Andy will play in the China Open in Beijing after resting since his disappointing defeat in the US Open to Stanislas Wawrinka.

Jamie marries Alejandra Gutierrez next month and was last night enjoying his stag night organised by best man Andy. He flies to India on Thursday and his mother admitted he was “a little bit apprehensive” about what might await him there after reports of inadequate accommodation and security.

“The tennis venue is at an existing club,” said his mother. “The issues are more whether the village is secure and hygienic.”

However, she added: “It is a big opportunity for him. Scotland does not normally have a tennis team because you play for Great Britain in the Davis Cup and the Federation Cup, so it is a unique opportunity. I hope the team comes back with something shiny.”

Andy’s mission, now he has masterminded the stag night, is to clinch qualification for the Barclays ATP Tour finals that take place in London in November.

“He has been training hard with Alex Corretja who has been over for the last week,” said his mother. The Spaniard is Murray’s consultant coach but he has still to appoint a full-time replacement for Miles Maclagan who left Team Murray in the summer.

“There is no great rush. It is very important that he takes his time and gets the right person for the right things,” said Murray.

The hunt for a coach can be allowed to proceed at a respectable speed. Scotland, however, needs to act quickly to make the Murray factor add up to a winning formula for a nation’s children.

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