Review: In Conversation With: Judy Murray *****

Spoken Word

In Conversation With: Judy Murray

The Stand’s New Town Theatre, Freemasons’ Hall, George Street v7

12.00 (20 August ONLY)

***** (5 stars)

Another fascinating hour with sports journalist Graham Spiers as our host, this time talking to Judy Murray, mother of Andy and Jamie and daughter of professional footballer Roy Erskine and herself no mean tennis player – she was Scotland’s no1 woman tennis player for many years, winning a total of 64 Scottish titles. Now her passion is to pass on her love of the game to the punter generations in Scotland, building on the impetus of the interest aroused in the sport by the success of her sons and the Scottish wheelchair tennis player, Gordon Reid: at the end of 2016 Andy, Jamie and Gordon were year-end no.1 in singles, doubles, and wheelchair tennis respectively: an incredible feat for a small nation who, when Judy’s boys were young, had virtually no facilities, no coaching, and no money being put into tennis.

Judy is, as ever, a delight to listen to: never afraid to speak out when something needs said, and willing to put her own efforts into anything she can see needs done, rather than sitting around waiting for someone else to do something. Hers is an inspiring story. When her sons were small, she encouraged them to play all sports and, Scotland’s weather being what it is, invented all sorts of games to keep them amused when it was too dreich for them to go outside: she learned them learn, and learned from them, seeing how different games helped them develop different skills. The example she gave that fascinated me most was when she needed to use the kitchen table, so moved the boys to sit on the floor to continue their games of ping-pong tennis [with biscuit tin lids as bats, and cereal boxes for the net] and saw how they developed their upper body skills and flexibility to compensate for not being able to run around to reach the ball. She used all this knowledge in her coaching.

Her story of how she developed her coaching skills from helping her and other parents’ kids down at Dunblane tennis club into being Scotland’s national tennis coach is an inspiration to anyone who doubts that they might be able to achieve anything. Her guiding principle is it’s not about what you haven’t got: it’s what you do with what you have got – and we could all take that to heart! Everything had to be learned ‘on the job’ – there were no tennis coaches in Scotland from whom to learn, no facilities, and no ‘how to’ book to help her work out how to coach, manage and look after the finances and schedules of her boys, especially in the years when they were earning peanuts but having to spend mightily. And there was no ‘how to’ guide about managing the sudden and intense media scrutiny when Andy made it through to the third round of Wimbledon the first time he played there in 2005. Judy discussed the dangers of spontaneous remarks on Twitter [and the Feli(ciano Lopez) storm], the constant intrusion into a person’s private life of the British press, whom she described as “vast and vicious” – it’s no wonder Andy clammed up for years after the storm over his World Cup comments all those years ago…

And of course, we had to hear about Judy’s Strictly experience: and here, too, her simple common sense shone out – she went in, starry-eyed, to something she’d been following on tv since its inception, not expecting to win, but hoping it would be fun [and a four-month break from tennis!] – and it was. She loved every moment of it, and wasn’t affected by the judges’ comments [unlike other contestants] – her attitude was ‘it’s all a bit of fun, why get upset about it?” In fact, her attitude to life seems totally to be “look for the positive, and ignore the negative” – she tapes her boys’ matches, but only watches if they’ve won…

There were some good questions from the floor, including that from the first, young, contributor: “what do you enjoy most about tennis?” Judy’s answer probably sums her up as a person – “it’s working out how to play the game, how to beat your opponent”. An inspiring hour with an amazing woman, whose wit brought gales of laughter and who left the platform in a storm of applause.

Mary Woodward