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Judge Judy: We profile Andy Murray's determined mother

While the glossy celeb magazines may only have eyes for Andy Murray's wife of 10 weeks, Kim Sears, it's his mother Judy who calls the shots behind the scenes, writes Jane Graham.

Published 27/06/2015

Judy Murray
Judy Murray

It's a truth universally acknowledged that behind every great man there's a great woman, who's probably even greater than him. When we say this about celebrated male heroes through the ages, however, we're not usually referring to their mums.

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray may have just married a woman coveted for her fabulous grooming and natural good looks, but while the fashion mags clamour to replicate Kim Sears' wardrobe, everyone understands that the real power behind that particular throne is the steely-eyed fiftysomething who's been at Andy's side from day one - the formidable Judy Murray.

It's a fitting image, because we do tend to imagine that Judy really was standing behind her beloved sons - Andy and his big brother, doubles player Jamie - issuing orders and instructions, from the moment they were born.

How else, it is often asked, could she have produced not just one, but two global tennis stars? If she wasn't pushing their buggies, she was probably pushing a tennis ball into their hands, like a demented drug-dealer looking to addict her potentially lucrative prey as quickly as possible.

This version of Judy Murray, which has often come accompanied with nouns like 'harpie' and 'fishwife' in the past, still has currency in the popular media. Boris Becker didn't help when he implied Murray was a smothered mummy's boy, who would only really flourish when he cut the apron strings.

If Andy had ever been the kind of man to give a damn what other people thought, he might have distanced himself rather publicly from the woman who had screamed and punched the air in an indecorous and unWimbledonny manner through so many of his big matches.

But he ignored Boris, whose past history with women might suggest he's not the best person to give advice about relationships with the opposite sex, and he ignored the tabloid sniping and dressing-room giggles.

And, in the meantime, he became the world's second-best tennis player with an Olympic Gold and two (so far) Grand Slams under his belt.

So we can probably say that decision was a good call.

In spite of great exertions, the press has never come up with much evidence to support the delicious stereotype of Judy Murray as the interfering control-freaking 'dance mom'. (Though they do have lots of pictures of her frowning, or clenching her fist, which appears to do the job just as well)

The daughter of a Stirling Albion footballer and a high-achieving teenage tennis player herself, it would have been odd if she hadn't encouraged a passion for sport in her sons. But bearing in mind Andy was just five years old when he told her he "wanted to play a proper match in a proper competition", it seems ambition was in his blood long before she had a chance to choose a path for him.

Ironically, he said recently if he'd had more parental pressure when he was growing up, he might, as a born contrarian, have given the sport up. Instead, so the inside story goes, Judy and the boys' dad, Willie Murray, focused mainly on cheering their sons on until their natural talent was so blindingly obvious it seemed only sensible for Judy, who had meanwhile become the Scottish national coach, to become Andy's first coach.

It's possible the close relationship Judy has with her sons was partly fostered by the horrific experience of having them caught up in the Dunblane primary school massacre in 1996. Andy was eight, Jamie 10, when Thomas Hamilton broke in and shot dead 16 of their schoolmates and a teacher. The family rarely speak about it, but in Andy's autobiography, Judy recounted driving to school in a blind panic and waiting in protracted agony until it was revealed which class had been targeted.

It was allegedly around this time that the Murray's marriage began to strain, which Andy said made him "very upset" as a boy. The couple separated, though didn't actually divorce until 2005. Willie Murray claims Judy left the boys at home with him, leaving him to look after them day to day, while she moved into a house close by. Judy's mother, Shirley, was also heavily involved in their teenage upbringing and Andy has often talked of his closeness to her.

There has always been a faint sense of resentment from the British Lawn Tennis Association, whose job it is to find the next British hero, towards the woman who raised an actual real-life Wimbledon champion outside their jurisdiction. (Andy went to train in Barcelona when he was 15 instead.) One can only wonder why. It is sometimes whispered in dark corners beyond Hadrian's Wall that Andy's Scottishness made his mother's pride even harder for them to swallow. But, whatever the tennis establishment felt about her, it came to the point when not acknowledging Judy's coaching skills would have looked not just churlish, but positively masochistic.

In 2011, she was named as the LTA's new Fed Cup captain, responsible for nurturing, mentoring and training the UK's most promising female players and coaches.

She said she was attracted to the role because she "wanted to get more girls into tennis" and show them that "girls can rise all the way to the top, too".

So far, the results have been hugely promising, with players like Heather Watson, Laura Robson and Johanna Conta looking like serious contenders for the future.

Judy Murray's oft-repeated focus on encouraging young women in sports has seen her heralded as a feminist icon. Andy says he's happy if people want to call him one, too: "I came to tennis thanks to my mother. I find it easier to talk to (women). It's a crying shame there aren't more female coaches."

His choice of a female coach - Amelie Mauresmo - is a first for a player of his ranking and there's no doubt his own inspirational first coach was key to that choice.

Recently Judy has enjoyed softening and glamming up her image.

She appeared as a hourglass-shaped, glitter-infested contestant on Strictly Come Dancing last year and, though she didn't prove to be a particularly graceful dancer (she never threatened the top half of the Strictly leaderboard), she clearly had fun dressing up. Since then she's had something of a makeover and, with her platinum pixie cut, pretty petal lipstick, and perfect white teeth, looks far younger than she did five years ago.

There have also been many attempts to find proof of a seething rivalry between Judy and Andy's wife Kim, but nothing has emerged. Instead, there is much frustrating evidence that the two are very close and Judy has long approved of the beautiful girl who's been by Andy's side since he was a gawky 18-year-old without a Grand Slam win, or his current bundle of cash anywhere near his grasp.

And Kim is not a Wag - she's a smart cookie who knows her tennis. In fact, it was Kim's dad, Nigel Sears, who vacated the LTA Fed Cup job Judy took over in 2011. The affection between Kim and Judy appears to be mutual, with Kim just one of many young women who speak enthusiastically of Judy's warmth, her dry Scottish humour and her unerring positivity.

Rising star Heather Watson says the Fed Cup girls are "all close to her" and that, "she's there when she doesn't have to be". Not a bad set of references for a smothering harpie.

A life so far

Born: Judy Erskine, September 8, 1959, Bridge of Allan, Scotland

Family: daughter of father Roy Erskine, a professional footballer for Hibernian and Stirling Albion, and mother Shirley (nee Edney). Married Willie Murray, an area manager for newsagents RS McColl, in 1980. Divorced 2005

Career: qualified as a tennis coach at 17, became a full-time coach in 1994 and her sons' first coaches when they were in primary school. Promoted to Scottish national coach. Named as Lawn Tennis Association's Federation Cup captain in 2011

Belfast Telegraph

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