Last week, at the ATP World Tour Finals, Andy and Jamie Murray became the first pair of siblings to hold the top spot in the singles and doubles rankings together. While the younger Murray brother won his sixth tournament on the trot, defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the final to finish the year – his first – ranked as the world No. 1, the 15-month older Jamie finished as the joint No. 1 with Brazilian partner Bruno Soares, after reaching the semi-finals in London.
Several expositions have come forth highlighting their parallel success, all of which are valid. But there’s one particular explanation that holds a commanding sway than the rest. The facet of their mother, Judy, assuredly moulding their future in tennis. First as a coach, then as a keenly supportive parent.
The parent-coach combination
While the latter is an aspect that Judy shares with her fellow parental peers, the former is a trait that puts her among the choicest few. Even as it separates her from them.
Tennis history is rife with players who have had their fathers take on the role of their early developmental coaches to help them reach the pinnacle of the sport. There is, however, a significant discrepancy in the number of mothers who have got to take on a similar role.
Judy Murray features right at the top of this short list. But unlike her fellow parents-turned-coaches – pointedly the fathers – who had the notoriety of transferring their personal ambitions onto their children and whose micro-management of their charges’ careers affected their personal relationship, the 57-year-old never once assumed such absolute and dictatorial control. An exception to the norm of such rigidity, Judy’s intuitiveness in taking a backseat from coaching her sons, to turning over the responsibility to those better equipped to bring out the best in them has paid off handsomely, despite the wait both Jamie and Andy have had to endure. All the while, their familial bond remaining intact and close-knit as always.
A positive influence for life
Judy’s sacrifices gain more prominence with regard to the way Andy’s career has shaped up. The 29-year-old trained at the famous Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, founded by Emilio Sanchez Vicario and his former doubles partner, Sergio Casal, and though it was financially hard for Judy, she bore the brunt of the expenses without complaining in order to ensure that her son’s future wasn’t blighted.
“She has dedicated a large part of her life to the sport,” Andy had commented earlier this year. “I know how much time and effort she has put into British tennis. And it’s a lot more than me, Jamie and Leon [Smith] have done. I think she has done a great job in all the different roles she has had within the game. It’s not a coincidence that Leon was mentored by my mum and was given the chance to coach me and Jamie from a young age. Or that me and Jamie have gone on to achieve what we have,” he added.
The lighter side of the Murrays
Though Andy went on to add that he was biased in favour of his mother, it did not diminish the validity of the point he was trying to get across. Nor is it surprising that both Jamie and Andy consider her the strongest supporting pillar on their sides. Where she’s remained all along, often as the loudest person cheering from their boxes.
And just like any other family, their quirkiness with each other also comes to the fore when least expected. Like when Andy forgot to acknowledge his mother after his first – and momentous – win at Wimbledon in 2013 before he had to be audibly reminded to do so. Or now, where Judy is sharing old pictures’ memorabilia about how her sons were while they were young.
It is in this light-heartedness that the support they have for each other and their close-knit familial bond shines through. Because, irrespective of how farther they have travelled in the annals of the sport, the Murray brothers will always remain the core essence of Judy Murray’s first success. As a mother, and then as the woman who introduced them to the sport in which they are currently ruling