Judy Murray visits Ipswich and reveals her plans for female tennis in Great Britain
ELENA Baltacha is leading the way for Great Britain on the court and her blossoming tennis academy at Ipswich Sports Club has acquired admiring glances off it from none other than Judy Murray.
New Fed Cup captain Murray, arguably best known for cheering on her son, and world number four, Andy, around the world, has designs on starting her own academy in Scotland.
But in her role as Fed Cup skipper, she is aiming to transform the nation’s female tennis setup, appoint more female coaches and develop a clear pathway for youngsters to reach their potential.
An affable character off the court, Murray has a steely determination to succeed on it and, having coached her son and been Scotland’s national coach, the 52-year-old has the right credentials.
“I am a big believer in developing the right skills when they (children) are young, but also to love the game and to learn to love playing,” said Murray.
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“If the kids have good role models and the coaches make the sessions fun, stimulating and entertaining, then the kids will love coming back and it will make it easier for them to learn.
“I have identified a site (for an academy) in quite a good place and I am hoping that within the next two to three years I will have somewhere built in Scotland from which I can work.
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“What Elena and (coach) Nino (Severino) are trying to do here is very much along my way of thinking, Getting a lot of kids playing, trying to find the best ones and ensuring we have a training environment that will allow them to develop to whatever their potential is.”
Murray will lead the likes of Baltacha and Anne Keothavong in to the Fed Cup, in Israel, in February, but confessed the British pair are a rarity when it comes to female tennis in this country.
British number one, Baltacha is currently ranked 50th in the world while Keothavong is ranked 71st and is the current British number two but several young girls have not been as successful.
“The girls have to develop the right skills at the right time to allow them to become a successful top player,” said Murray.
“We have a lot of full-time players in this country who get stuck at a level that does not allow them to make a living and you have to look at why that happens.
“Is it coaching? Are they not learning the right things? Have they got a lack of opportunities?
“We have to improve to get more players like Elena, so I am trying to develop a stronger female workforce, we are outnumbered about 12 to one at the moment, and want to try and influence that pathway to find our best 10-12-year-olds.
After a session watching Baltacha in an intense training game with former Spanish professional Danny Dios, Murray waxed lyrical about the Ipswich-based 28-year-old.
She has seen Baltacha from the very beginning and thinks the Kiev-born Scot, whose dad Sergei used to play for Ipswich, can be a tremendous role model for youngsters in Suffolk.
“I ran her first proper under-10s tennis tournament at Dunblane Sports Club and I had to go on court and pick the balls out of the fence from her serves as she was hitting the ball so hard. Her opponents could not reach the ball! Murray recalled.
“She has a good work-ethic and has always worked incredibly hard and has got to this stage because she has applied herself and because of the environment she has grown up in with her parents.
“Parents are vital. Not everyone can become a champion but everyone can grow to love the game and become as good they are destined to be.”