british tennis


By Melina Harris

The start of the Millenium was not particularly memorable for the British public despairing on Henman Hill over Tim’s recent exit in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2000; but unbeknown to us, a rather talented little gem, aged 6, had moved across to the UK from Australia with her parents Andrew, an oil executive and Kathy Robson, a sports coach and former professional basketball player.

Luckily, nature and nurture (great genes and financial backing) combined forces in the Noughties to produce Britain’s potential star of the future; Laura Robson, who entered a tennis academy aged 7, signed with management company, Octagon aged 10 and subsequently landed lucrative sponsorship deals with Wilson and Adidas aged 11. Winning the junior Wimbledon title in July 2008 crowned her as ‘the new darling of British tennis,’ catapulting her dramatically into the public eye with many tennis commentators hailing Robson as the one to watch.

Our lovely leftie, currently ranked No. 406 in the world aged 15 recently added to her growing army of admirers and fans, including Aussie legend and Wimbledon winner Pat Cash during her impressive performances with fellow Brit Andy Murray, in the Hyundai Hopman Cup in Australia earlier this month.

Although Murray claimed to be “rubbish” at mixed doubles, together, Murray and Robson were a formidable force, blowing opponents away in both their level of play (they were the first Great British pair to compete in the Hopman Cup final) and sheer entertainment value for the Aussie crowd. Despite their defeat in the final to Spain’s Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez through Murray’s loss in the singles, it was his behavior throughout the tournament and Robson’s charisma and potential that grabbed the headlines.

A couple of years ago Tim Henman labeled Murray as “a bit of a miserable sod,” however no comment could have been further off the mark as the tennis world witnessed a most astonishing event – Murray’s smile! I doubt I will ever forget the sight of his wide grin to coach Miles Maclagan and fitness trainer Jez Green during his devastating demolition of Andreev in the group stages of the tournament, which Pat Cash claimed was “as good as it could possibly be for any player.”

This sunny disposition continued throughout the tournament and especially during the pair’s mixed-doubles encounters. Significantly, Robson’s coach, Martijn Bok, noted of Murray in a post match interview, “in the first two mixed doubles matches, Andy did really well to keep Laura calm, had time to make a joke and give her confidence. Even here, we’ve seen other teams whose male player looks away when the woman makes a mistake, as if she does not belong out there.” Did we hear correctly: the words ‘joke’ and ‘Murray’ in the same sentence? According to his website and Team Murray, he loves nothing more than a bit of banter, but in the past this has rarely come across on court or in interviews.

In a rare moment of gracious humour,  Murray admitted in a post match interview, “the man is supposed to dominate in mixed doubles but every time I tried to take over the point we lost it, so I just let her do it all by herself.”

Indeed, the way that Murray looked out for his younger partner, joking and smiling throughout the tournament, allowing her to take centre stage, has definitely endeared him to the harshly critical British public and arguably improved his image worldwide. Perhaps he’d taken some advice from his older brother, Jamie – famous for winning the Wimbledon mixed doubles flirtatiously with Jelena Jankovic in 2007 or was it simply due to the infectious charm and charisma of his partner? Whatever the reason, his management company, 19 must be literally jumping for joy with the results gained from this new partnership. Please check them out on YouTube if you don’t believe me!

Never before have we seen this side to Andy Murray and Robson must be congratulated for drawing out this side to his personality, which has often been criticized in the past and even Pat Cash noted, in his recent Sunday Times article Why I’m mad about Laura Robson that “she can make Andy Murray smile, which is no mean feat.”

Murray has definitely started the new decade with the conscious or subconscious decision to show another side to his often surly demeanor. Robson’s mother even went so far as to say “Andy Murray is a good boy, a true gentleman and we all absolutely adore him.” The PR will no doubt help his marketability and maybe even his relationship status (he recently split with long term love, Kim Sears due to his excessive obsession with the computer game ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ it was reported)- along with half of the male population, I must add.

Although Robson’s coach, Dutchman Martijn Bok admitted “Laura could not be described as a natural athlete…she will need more attention on the physical side of her game than the tennis side,” there is much hope for this precocious talent. If, once her growth spurt comes to an end, Laura can learn from Andy’s dedication to his physical development with his infamous and grueling 400m runs (just one aspect of the vigorous fitness regime set out by Jez Green) and Andy continues to be infected by Laura’s charm and charisma, what an exciting marketing prospect we have on our hands. I cannot help but be exhilarated by the thought of Andy and Laura competing together in the mixed doubles event staged at Wimbledon in the London Olympics in 2012 and the role models they will become for future generations of British talent.

Are the twenty teens indeed the start of a golden era for British tennis? As the Queen might say; one truly hopes so Philip!


By Leigh Sanders

Last week saw the British Tennis Awards 2009 decided in an informal ceremony at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton. World No. 4 Andy Murray scooped the AEGON Player of the Year Award while US-Open Girls champion Heather Watson picked up the AEGON Junior Player of the Year gong. The formidable doubles pairing Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski, known affectionately as ‘Flemski,’ picked up the British Tennis Team of the Year award after climbing up the rankings throughout 2009. University of Bath tennis coach Barry Scollo was awarded the top coach gong for his “contagious energy” and his insistence that his players as well as himself play to the best of their ability and ITF Silver Badge Chair Umpire James Keothavong took home the ABTO Official of the Year title. He oversaw the 2009 Wimbledon ladies’ doubles final whilst also being the only Silver Badge Chair Umpire to call a Davis Cup quarterfinal.

The full honours list:

  • AEGON Player of the Year – Andy Murray
  • AEGON Junior Player of the Year – Heather Watson
  • AEGON Coach of the Year Award – Barry Scollo
  • Highland Spring Hot Shots Tour Award – Maia Lumsden
  • BNP Paribas Lifetime Achievement Award – Margaret Holder
  • ABTO Official of the Year – James Keothavong
  • British Tennis Team of the Year – Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski
  • British Tennis Young Volunteer of the Year – Hugo Allen
  • British Tennis Club of the Year – Boston Tennis Club, Lincolnshire.
  • British Tennis Veteran of the Year Award – Christine French

*Andy Roddick and Serena Williams hope to represent the USA in mixed doubles after it was added to the 2012 Olympic Games program in Great Britain following approval from the IOC. Roddick confirmed on his Twitter account: “It’s confirmed! Serena and Andy teaming up for mixed doubles at 2012 games if they push the mixed doubles through.” However they face competition from Bob Bryan and Serena’s older sister Venus for the honour of competing at the prestigious games. The matches will be held on the grass courts of Wimbledon.

*Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt has been named third in the ATP top five players of the decade. Described as a “feisty Australian” he became the youngest winner on the ATP Tour, taking his home-town title in Adelaide in January 1998 at just 16 years, 10 months. He took the 2001 US Open crown, ending Sampras’ dominance in the final and also became the first Australian and the youngest ATP World Tour Champion that same year. In 2002 he defeated David Nalbandian to hoist the Wimbledon trophy aloft and became the only player along with Roger Federer to become ATP World Tour Champion multiple times this decade. This achievement also ranked at 9 in the ATP’s top ten records/achievements of the decade. He was also runner up at the 2004 US Open and the 2005 Australian Open.

*While in the ATP’s Greatest Near Misses category, the 2009 Wimbledon final is ranked second in the top five in reference to Roddick’s battling performance and Aussie Pat Rafter’s consecutive Wimbledon final defeats in 2000 and 2001 rank fifth.

*British tennis star Anne Keothavong has been meeting with designer Paul Costelloe to help design Britain’s off-court outfits for their upcoming BNP Paribas Fed Cup ties.

*Canadian doubles expert and Toronto native Daniel Nestor has been named the George Cross/Toronto Sun Sportsman of the Year.

*Young American star Ryan Harrison has booked himself a place in the main draw at the 2010 Australian Open after winning the USTA Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs in Atlanta. He beat the No. 1 seed Jesse Levine 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

*Not long after renewing its partnership with National Bank until 2013, Tennis Canada has announced the return of the National Bank Circuit which will be played out in five major Quebec cities throughout the 2010 season.

Murray Dumped Over Playstation?

While Tiger Woods is having relationship problems due to spending intimate time with other women, British tennis ace Andy Murray problem’s lie with too much time playing video games.

The Telegraph in the United Kingdom is reporting that Murray’s split with girlfriend Kim Sears was partially due to too much time playing Playstation. Writes the Telegraph, “Sources close to Sears said one of the causes [of the breakup] was the world number four’s long hours playing video tennis and PlayStation 3 games such as the best selling Call of Duty sequel. Brad Gilbert, Murray’s former coach, has said in the past that Murray spends “seven hours a day” playing video games.”

The U.K’s tabloid newspaper The Sun quoted another source saying, “He would spend all his time glued to them (video games). In the end she just got fed up with it. She wanted more out of the relationship.”