December 30, 2016

The Mubadala World Tennis Championship has so far seen hundreds of children descend on the International Tennis Centre, The Zayed Sports City to watch and learn from the world’s tennis elite. But it wasn’t just the players who were on hand to offer guidance though, as mother and former coach of World No.1 Andy Murray, took to the practice courts for a parent and child coaching clinic.

Judy took time to coach parents on how to get their children learning the core coordination skills that tennis requires. Parents and their children were jumping through hoops, spinning their rackets and catching water balloons as part of a skills session from the mother of two World No.1s, Andy and Jamie Murray. As men’s singles and men’s doubles champions, they both grew up playing football, cricket, tennis and badminton at home – mum Judy being their first tennis coach before they both went professional.

Commenting on her coaching session in Abu Dhabi, Judy Murray said: “The aim of today was to show parents how they can help their kids with the skills they need to play a pretty complex coordination sport like tennis. If a child wants to take up a sport like tennis, their parents are the first people they are going to ask to play with them so the more you can help parents understand what tennis is going to demand of their children, the more chance you have of the child being competent at it.

“You don’t need to stick an age on it. Kids can develop good coordination skills, basic physical skills like running, jumping, skipping, hopping, running and catching that pretty much underpin any sport that’s out there. It’s not about starting them early with tennis, it’s about starting them early with good, basic physical skills.”

Raising two World No.1s is very unusual, but Judy takes no credit for that: “I come from a sporty family, so when I was young my mum and dad were always playing with me and my brothers out in the garden – cricket, football, badminton, tennis – pretty much everything. So when my kids were small, it was second nature to do all those things with them. We had little money when I was a young mum, so I became quite good at inventing lots of fun games that helped develop skills that you pretty much need for any sport. Andy and Jamie’s first tennis experience was balloons over the sofa, where they started making up their own scoring system. Then it graduated to a rope across two chairs and a sponge ball. Kids learn while they are having fun, they don’t want to listen to you. So if you are smart, the games can do the teaching for you.”

“It’s interesting that Andy is right-handed and Jamie left-handed, yet they grew up in the same house in the same way and they’ve both ended up being professional tennis players. But their skills on the court are completely different. Jamie’s skills are around quick reactions, serve and volley, being really fast at the net which is suited to doubles. Andy was a little terrier, scrapper, retriever when he was young. It’s a good example of one size doesn’t fit all. You have to find the right way to motivate and develop what is in front of you. Look at your child’s personality, their physicality, the game style that they enjoy and the players that they admire.”

Judy is in Abu Dhabi to support Andy who is set to play his first match in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship today at the International Tennis Centre in The Zayed Sport City. On the tournament, Judy said: “It’s great to back here at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, we’ve been here several times before and it’s one of the tournaments I really enjoy coming back to with Andy, because it’s three days of relaxed atmosphere as the players build up for their new season. We are well looked after, the weather’s fantastic, the staff are great and there is so much going on outside off the courts – the way they use all the players to run clinics and meet and greet session engages them with the fans which is so important. I love coming here.”

Speaking about her talented sons, Judy added: “I’m incredibly proud of them and it’s not just about what they’ve achieved in tennis, I mean it is quite remarkable what they have done against a backdrop of where we come from. But I’m more proud of how they are as young men because they are very normal considering what has happened to them and they are both fun to be around, thoughtful, humble, hardworking and appreciative. For them both to get to World No.1 in tennis is something I never imagined when they started out as little kids playing swing ball in the back garden.”

World No. 1 Andy Murray will face tournament debutant David Goffin today at 5pm. World No. 11 Goffin dispatched friend Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last night to secure this place in today’s semi-final. Before taking to the court today, Andy spent time signing autographs and taking pictures with eager fans in the Tennis Village at the tournament, before taking warming up with local fan Hassan Al Nowais on centre court.

Hassan called Murray out on social media earlier in the year to come back to the tournament, with the World No.1 replying to him and unveiling that he would be. On meeting his idol, Hassan said: “After Andy spoke to me on social media, I didn’t think it could get any better. But today I played tennis with him, the World No.1, and it is something I will never forget. I’d definitely say Andy and I are friends now.”