Judy Murray joined by Wimbledon champ Jordanne Whiley at new St Albans sports centre
- Credit: Chris Christodoulou
Andy Murray’s mum admits he is “the most untidy person I know”.
Tennis icon Judy Murray managed to ace the launch of St Albans’ newest sports centre despite battling to reach the site in torrential rain and through gridlocked traffic.
The famous mum of last year’s Wimbledon champion Andy Murray officially opened state-of-the-art Batchwood Sports Centre on Tuesday (8).
And among the 1,000 people attending the official ceremony was tennis star Jordanne Whiley, just days after winning her first Wimbledon title with wheelchair women’s doubles partner Yui Kamiji.
After playing at Batchwood Jordanne, 22, told the Herts Advertiser: “This is my first time here.
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“It’s a nice centre, really modern and the surface is really grippy, so you get a nice bounce on the ball.”
This year has proved successful for the duo, as they will soon travel to New York for the US Open in an attempt to complete a sweep of grand slams having also won this year’s Australian Open and French Open.
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Jordanne, who said playing tennis was her “full-time job”, called for more girls to be encouraged to pick up a racket.
She added: “It’s tough work but it has taken me all over the world.”
And Jordanne was certain that Andy – who crashed out of Wimbledon after losing in straight sets to Grigor Dimitrov – would “win another grand slam”.
Judy Murray praised the new £6.6 million complex, constructed to replace Batchwood Golf and Tennis Centre which was burned down three years ago.
The tennis icon has very close ties with the award-winning team at Batchwood High Performance Centre.
She visited St Albans shortly after the blaze in 2011 to support the push to resurrect the sports arena, saying at that time she was saddened to see the derelict courts.
On Tuesday, though, in an interview with the Herts Advertiser, Judy described the new centre as “amazing”.
She praised friends Mandy Franks and Liz Jones, directors of tennis at Batchwood, for keeping their programme going despite not having a permanent base.
Judy added: “What you see here today is the result of their, and the team’s efforts, the local council and the LTA coming together to provide a really fantastic tennis facility for this area.
“Three years is a long time.”
She too urged local girls to try tennis, saying there were four times as many boys playing at mini tennis level.
Judy went on: “We have to make our sport as attractive as we can to little girls. And I think that female coaches play a big role in that. The more female coaches we have, the more likely we are to not just attract but maintain girls. It’s a great sport, and it’s a sport for life.
“I do think the key with girls is to make sure you have a social group of them, as they are not as physical as boys at a young age and they like to do things with their friends.”
Judy also backed Batchwood’s efforts to spot future Andy Murrays in local schools.
She said: “Every sport is looking for the same athletic, coordinated, competitive, eager children and of course in the schools, they are all there.
“So I think that by working with the schools, with PE teachers in particular in terms of trying to spot the ones who are well coordinated and competitive, and giving them a chance to try tennis within the school environment first, and those who are identitifed or are keen, they have an amazing facility right here for them to come along and continue.”
Judy, a leading tennis coach and current captain of the British Fed Cup team, answered a series of interesting questions from youngsters attending the launch.
One boy, an eight year old, asked her how many times Andy had won Wimbledon, to which she replied, “that is a very good question, I like that question.”
Judy said that sons Andy and Jamie had been inspired to play tennis after a trip to Wimbledon while very young.
She laughed at a question on whether Andy “keeps his room tidy”.
Judy replied: “He is the most untidy person I have met in my life, but he has people picking things up for him.”
She also laughed when asked how many times Andy had hit a ball.
When asked about what it was like watching Andy play, Judy admitted that it had not become easier and she can still suffer “severe nausea” despite him winning Wimbledon last year, because “the expectations have got higher”.
There were speeches from St Albans Mayor Cllr Geoff Harrison and executive leader of St Albans district council, Cllr Julian Daly, who said, “Batchwood isn’t your average council leisure centre”.
Representatives of the Lawn Tennis Association described the new centre as “fantastic and an important part of the tennis network”.
Neil King, managing director of 1Life, which manages Batchwood on behalf of the council, said that since opening its doors to the public in May thousands of people had used the centre’s facilities, which include a 48-station gym, six indoor tennis courts, and refurbished squash courts.
The launch saw more than £2,000 being raised for the Rally for Bally campaign, set up in memory of the late Elena Baltacha, the former British number one tennis player who died from liver cancer in May.