fellow brit

Laid-Back Murray Anticipating First Grand Slam Title

Andy Murray was pretty easy-going during his pre-tournament press conference today at the Rogers Cup answering almost every question that reporters wanted to ask him. There was one area that was apparently off limits and that was anything relating to his recent departure from coach Miles MacLagan. Sarah Grossman, the Rogers Cup co-ordinator for communications and media relations, advised us that Andy did not want to answer any questions in that department. Well there goes the first one on my list!

Instead Murray revealed an optimism about the possibility of capturing his first Grand Slam later this summer and how his semi-final result at Wimbledon has encouraged him in that pursuit.

“I want to try and win my first Grand Slam but also the semis at Wimbledon is not a terrible result. It was good for me cause I had a few months since the Australian Open where I hadn’t played so well and playing so well at Wimbledon has definitely given me a confidence boost going into the U.S. stretch.”

Murray talked about his time off since Wimbledon and how it was important for him to take some time away from the game to stay fresh. He took two and a half weeks away from the court and went away on holiday. He returned to practice in Miami for a few days before then playing the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles where he fell to Sam Querrey in the final.

Murray will be pulling double-duty here in Toronto as he is participating in both the singles and doubles draws. He’ll partner with fellow Brit and good friend Ross Hutchins. Deep down I was kind of hoping he’d pair up with Federer to give the Nadal/Djokovic duo some competition in the publicity department. Murray and Hutchins almost defeated the Bryan’s brothers earlier in the year in Monte Carlo, losing in third set champions tie-break. They also played the Rogers Cup a year ago.

Earlier in the afternoon on Saturday Murray took part in a quasi-celebrity match on Center Court with a few Canadian news personalities and a couple of NHL hockey players. At one point he was accidentally hit in the back by a Daniel Nestor serve and re-told the story to us later with good humor.

“It’s typical, I expected it from him – I told him afterwards. I know him really well, we get on pretty well. It’s very mature for a 37 year old.”

Murray sounded sure about his chances this week. He said that coming back to a place where he has played well in the past tends to make him feel confident.

He also spoke about some of the perks that come along with having a higher ranking as opposed to when he first broke onto the ATP Tour.

“You play a lot of your matches on the bigger courts which is an added motivation, it’s nice playing in front of big crowds. Normally you avoid playing the top guys in the world until later in the draw because you got seeded. Obviously sometimes you get byes in the tournament which helps. You get a couple of extra days to practice. There’s a few things that you get, sometimes nicer hotel rooms, it’s a bit easier to get practice courts and things like that. So it definitely helps when you get yourself higher up in the rankings but it takes a lot of work to get there.”

With a tough draw in Toronto it looks like it will be challenging for Murray to repeat, but with all his talent one must think he is due to break through and capture his first title of 2010 at some point.

Murray’s first match will be during the day session on Wednesday where he will face the winner between veteran Xavier Malisse and Michael Berrer.

Photo by Bob McIntyre ©

WHERE IS BRITISH WOMEN’S TENNIS?: 25 YEARS SINCE ANNABEL CROFT’S BRITISH WIN

Today, April 28, 2010, marks the 25th anniversary of the last fully British female to win a WTA Tour singles title (Monique Javer won a WTA Tour singles title in 1988 but was only half British). On 28th April 1985, 18-year-old Annabel Croft of Great Britain, ranked No. 83 at the time defeated world No. 7 Wendy Turnbull 6-0, 7-6(5) to win the Virginia Slims of San Diego and her first WTA Tour Title, causing much excitement amongst the British press. The young British hopeful never rose to expectations caused by this victory and failed to win another title before quitting her professional career in 1988.

I doubt this statistic will bring a smile to the already frowning LTA reeling from the recent government report on their expenditure. But who within the British camp is remotely ready to step up and claim the next WTA tour singles title?

British No. 1, Elena Baltacha has certainly had a wonderful start to the year rising to a ranking high of No. 59, memorably beating world No. 10 Li Na in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells only to lose in the next round to Alicia Molik. She is currently training in preparation for the WTA event in Rome and it remains to be seen if she can produce back to back performances throughout the course of a tournament to win her first WTA title.

Britain’s Anne Keothovong and Katie O’Brien both won their first round matches of the Grand Prix De Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco. Keothovong recovered from an embarrassing second set performance to defeat France’s Julie Coin to win 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, but her form this year after being forced out of the game for six months due to a knee injury has hardly given enough evidence to suggest enough consistency to flip the coin of British tennis fortunes in the near future. Fellow Brit, O’Brien defeated France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and commented “I was really pleased to come through my first match of the year on clay, especially as I haven’t had ideal preparation. I only started hitting on the clay a few days ago, as I was stranded in South Africa for six days where there weren’t any clay courts. I had to take five flights over two days to get to Fes, but I’ve recovered well, all considered. I’m now looking forward to tomorrow’s match against Renata Voracova. I lost to her last year in three sets on the clay, so I’m aiming to get my revenge.” She received more good news when it was confirmed that she had been given the key to a main draw entry in the French Open following the withdrawal of Sania Mirza. Out of the three, O’Brien is the less likely to emulate Croft’s singles victory considering her lack of victories over top ranked players.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Laura Robson recently reached the semifinals of the $50k event in Alabama after winning five consecutive matches in the USA, battling to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over the world No. 144 Sophie Ferguson of Australia in the quarterfinals; an excellent indication of the consistency of Robson throughout a tournament considering she also came through two matched in the qualifying rounds. She also went on a fine run to the quarterfinals in the doubles with fellow Brit Heather Watson. Could Robson be the one to break the 25 year wait?

Robson’s achievements in Alabama have seen her rise an impressive 46 places to a career high of No. 269 in this week’s WTA singles rankings. She also sits at No. 103 in doubles, another career high due to her great run of form that saw her reach the semi finals in doubles at the $25k event in Osprey, Florida the week before. I have a feeling we may need to wait a little while longer for our young star to win a WTA singles title, however perhaps she will be the one to bring home a Grand Slam too; we can only dream.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

ARE MURRAY AND ROBSON THE START OF A GOLDEN AGE FOR 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!