Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Devoted trio who inspired Andy Murray to Wimbledon conquest - mum, Ivan and Kim Sears

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07:  Ronnie Wood speaks with Judy Murray before the Gentlemen's Singles Final match between Andy Murray of Great Britain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 7, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07: Ronnie Wood speaks with Judy Murray before the Gentlemen's Singles Final match between Andy Murray of Great Britain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 7, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Crowds watching the Wimbledon final at Belfast City Hall . Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Crowds watching the Wimbledon final at Belfast City Hall . Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Prime Minister David Cameron (centre) applauds in the Royal Box near Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond (right) as Great Britain's Andy Murray plays Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the Men's Final during day thirteen of the Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Prime Minister David Cameron (centre) applauds in the Royal Box near Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond (right) as Great Britain's Andy Murray plays Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the Men's Final during day thirteen of the Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. P

They are the three most important people in Andy Murray's tennis life: his coach, his girlfriend, and, of course, his mum (even though he did forget to hug her after winning).

Without their very different forms of support it's questionable whether the Scot would finally have broken the 77-year hoodoo over British men competing at Wimbledon.

They are always there, at every Wimbledon match.

There was, however, no doubt who was the queen of Centre Court yesterday after another fist-pumping show of support from Andy Murray's girlfriend -- Kim Sears.

The aspiring artist was second in line for a hug from the Wimbledon champion after he triumphantly clambered into the box. She had sat shaking in hope with her hands clasped across her mouth as the Scot closed out the nerve-shredding match.

Ms Sears, described by Murray's mother as "the best thing to happen to Andy", placed her hands on her head in astonishment after he took the title that has eluded him for so long.

As he arrived in the player's box, she threw her arms around her boyfriend in sheer joy, the nervous look finally wiped from her face.

The 25-year-old has travelled the globe with Team Murray and has been a constant source of motivation and inspiration since the couple started dating in 2006.

They met on the tennis circuit in South Africa while Kim, aged 17, was travelling with her tennis coach father Nigel, who was at the time head of the women's section of the Lawn Tennis Association. They split briefly in 2009 but reunited six months later .

The stage is now set for a wedding proposal following rumours that the couple would tie the knot after Wimbledon.

Thanks should also go to his coach Ivan Lendl, who as the rest of the crowd jumped with delight sat and stared unblinking, as still as stone -- or the unyielding tennis machine he once was.

Before Lendl, now 53, came along Murray seemed to be following the path of many of Britain's other great tennis hopes -- undoubted talent and promise but never won Wimbledon.

Born in what was Czechoslovakia but taking US citizenship, the former world number one competed in 19 Grand Slam finals between 1981 and 1991. He won eight of them -- although never lifted the Wimbledon trophy despite contesting the final twice.

Crucially for Murray, Lendl lost his first four Grand Slam finals. This helped Murray believe Lendl had found the key to finally stepping up to that last highest level.

Lendl became Murray's coach in 2011. It was his first coaching job after barely picking up a racquet in the 19 years since he was forced to retire due to a back injury.

The two were introduced by tennis coach Darren Cahill and met for lunch in Florida. Lendl was initially dubious. His reputation was also at stake. But at the same time, he recognised Murray's problem -- that, despite his talent, his body language -- and his lungs would scream defeat. Murray needed some of the famous Lendl ice to cool his tantrums and petulance.

Murray warmed to Lendl not only because of his frosty determination, but because he wasn't a "career" coach. Lendl told Murray that he "didn't give a flip". If Murray wasn't happy Lendl would just go back to playing golf.

The Czech added steel and nerves to Murray's game, giving the Scot not only the belief that he could be a champion, but the cool ruthlessness a champion needs.

Last but not least, his mother Judy Murray, who Andy forgot to hug and kiss as he leapt onto the players box moments after winning.

That won't have worried Judy Murray, who remains instrumental in her son's success ever since she first introduced Andy to the game on a kitchen table using cereal packets, tin lids and a table tennis ball.

Since then the 53-year-old's resolute focus has been as much a contribution to his game as it has fuelled claims she is overbearing.

"I think that anybody who knows me knows that I'm not a pushy mum," she said last year. "I think a lot of the criticisms tend to be from people who I've never met and just form an opinion from whatever they see."

There's no doubt where the sporting lineage runs. Born in 1959, Judy's father, Roy Erskine, was a professional footballer for Hibernian and a keen tennis player.

It was something instilled in her and she rose to become Scotland's national coach, cultivating both her sons' passion for tennis at a time when there seemed little British prospect of ever producing a Wimbledon champion.

Judy remains a popular figure in the game, with a sense of humour that earns her more than 60,000 Twitter followers.

Her ex-husband is Willie Murray, from whom Judy was divorced in 2005.

Yesterday she said: "This is what he has talked about winning since he was a little boy, it was a dream that has become a reality now for him."

But it wasn't just Andy fulfilling a long-term dream.

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