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The Murray Mafia

Joshua Mason

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mafi murrays

 

The Murray Family may sound like an adorable folk band or murderous Californian cult, but it is not. Instead Andy, Judy and Jamie, who came out of a small town, have taken over British Tennis and are now setting their sights high, infiltrating all areas of the game. Andy Murray could make it another major in Australia this month as one of the favourites and with a child on the way, the family is only getting bigger. Much like the Cosa Nostra in their quest for expansion of the New World, the Murray’s are taking over Tennis, and it seems they are profiting hugely from their ‘raqueteering’.

 

Don’t Hate the Players

On the playing side, the Murray’s have two world beating foot-soldiers. Andy was always going to be the star child once he left for Barcelona as a teenager. He grew up there playing Djokovic and Nadal, which gave him the schooling he needed to get to where he is today. And today is certainly looking good – two Olympic medals, one US Open, a Davis Cup and  the Wimbledon win. It has not been an easy ride however, there have been plenty of losing battles too. Being a runner-up of 5 majors, Andy has experienced plenty of trials, but it is always about how you react. Murray has become a record breaker in British Tennis and given hope to a nation who have lived in the shadow of almost-man Tim Henman for too long.

Jamie is often the forgotten brother, (Jelena Jankovic didn’t even know who he was when she met him in Miami. He asked her to partner him at Wimbledon 2008) but has forged a road all on his own in Doubles, and like his brother, has seen unprecedented success for British Tennis. Jamie won the 2008 mixed doubles at Wimbledon and has also been the first brit in decades to reach a US Open doubles final too. He has always been at the side of his family, and at the 2015 Davis Cup he played an important role, winning the Doubles matches alongside Andy. Jamie Murray has achieved 13 ATP tour titles and will no doubt be at the forefront of the doubles game even after his playing career is over.

 

Mamma Mia

Like all good Mafia families there is a strong matriarchal character – enter Judy Murray. Born to a professional football player Roy Erskine, who played for Stirling and Cowdenbeath in the 50’s, Judy was always destined for a sporting life. Unfortunately for her it wasn’t going to be her. Despite a short stint as a pro in 1976 and playing against the likes of Debbie Jevans and Mariana Simionescu, she failed to make the grade. She could not stay away from the court long though and has lived her passion through her sons. She was their coach before finding success, and has continued her coaching to this today. She is currently helping Heather Watson as her interim coach and captains Great Britain’s Fed Cup team.

She seems to be the business brain of the Murray’s too, with an extravagant plan for a development near her hometown of Dunblane. The development which would include a Tennis Academy, Museum, Hotel and Visitor Centre would be a true legacy of the Murray’s achievements. Crucially though it was being built on greenbelt land, and the council have shown little enthusiasm for it, rejecting the initial bid. The plans also hid the fact there would be a golf course and 19 luxury homes in the development, which drew 1,000 complaints from residents. This has not stopped the Murray’s pushing for a change in the decision with a likely appeal pending. Like any self-respecting Mafia they brought in their celebrity pals to help, no not Frank Sinatra, but Sir Alex Ferguson and Colin Montgomerie who have put their backing to the idea. They will be hoping to give the council an offer they can’t refuse.

 

Keeping It In La Famiglia

Family is always number one in Mafia and the Murray’s are no different. Andy not satisfied with the amount of tennis in his life married into it this year. Kim Sears may seem like an another beautiful WAG, but her and Andy actually met through her father Nigel Sears – a British Tennis coach. He has worked with the likes of Amanda Coetzer, Daniela Hantuchová and Ana Ivanovic in his career, and his daughter Kim Sears married Murray in april last year in Dunblane.

Andy has claimed that he will fly home from the Australian Open if his wife goes into labour, as he understandably wants to be there for the birth. With the Murrays excelling in every side of singles, double, coaching and business, it is scary to think about the potential of any new member to the family. One thing is for sure, they have had an incredible impact on British Tennis and dragged the fans with them, creating a whole new level of optimism in Britain. It seems the next step will be creating a legacy, and with more Murray’s on the way, not even their rival Tennis family the Williams’ can compete at the moment.

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Steve Johnson Triumphs in Halle

Steve Johnson defeats former champion, Philipp Kohlschreiber in Halle’s kickoff match with a new event sponsor – Noventi.

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Steve Johnson (@USTA - Twitter)

By Cheryl Jones

 

A small town in Germany Westfalen has been the home of a grass court tournament for well over twenty-five years – to be exact, 26 years. The twenty-seventh anniversary of the event sports a new name. Formerly known as the Gerry Weber Open, the Noventi Open has now taken up residence in Halle.

The lawns look pretty much the same, and the venue hasn’t changed that much either. The new name came about when a successful conglomerate that touts itself as a trend setting healthcare corporation bought the tournament just weeks ago. Its company goals seem to be a nice fit for the tournament that has flourished in the verdant countryside in Halle. The townspeople for miles (or perhaps I should say kilometers) have supported the extravagant show that has become a well-known lead-up to Wimbledon. (After all, Roger Federer has signed a lifetime contract with the event, and if his name isn’t familiar, tennis may not be the game to be catching up on.)

Noventi purports to embrace the same concepts that the Halle townspeople have proudly exhibited for the past twenty-six years. Noventi’s mission statement begins, “Our employees are our highest asset.” Of course, the townspeople aren’t employees, but their community spirit has been steadfast. Their loyalty has carried the tournament on equal footing with the stellar singles and doubles line-ups over the years.

The opening match on Center Court welcomed what might be a new regime. It was German favourite, Philipp Kohlschreiber facing an American, Steve Johnson. The crowd was vocal in their support of Kohlschreiber, but a disappointing performance saw him lose to the plucky American who was a star on the college circuit before he switched to the pros in 2012. It was a quick match, with barely over an hour ticking by on the courtside clock and 6-3, 6-3 soon becoming the closing score.

Kohlschreiber said that Johnson had been playing very well and that there would have to be improvement in his own game if he was going to flourish and not flounder at Wimbledon. The German is thirty-five and even though he has been a well-known figure at Halle, his professional career has been rather ho-hum. (He did win here in 2011, defeating a fellow German, Philipp Petzschner.) After today’s match, he was asked if he had thought about retirement and he shrugged and said, he would know when it was time, but the time wasn’t now. As I am writing this, he is likely heading home to rest and rejuvenate and practice, practice, practice.

Johnson, however, will stay on to play another day. For those who aren’t familiar with the rangy American, there is quite a lot to be aware of. In no particular order, he won a bronze medal in the Rio Olympics in 2016, he was a college champ who helped bring University of Southern California four NCAA championships and he’s an all-around good guy. He was the NCAA winning singles performer his junior and senior years at USC. His father, also named Steve Johnson, had coached him from quite a young age. The elder Johnson died in his sleep at 58 in 2017. It was a blow to Johnson’s career and his performance has seemed to yo-yo since then.

Today he looked strong and even though he wasn’t available for after-match questions due to constraints by the ATP minders here, his smile was broad, and he will survive to play another day. (One would think that winners would be available to interview, but for reasons that escape me, that wasn’t the case today.)

An American has never triumphed in the singles here, but Mardy Fish managed to play himself into the final in 2004, but lost to Roger Federer, who has come out on top nine times at this tournament. Federer is here, of course, looking for win number ten. Tomorrow will be his first match when he faces John Millman, an Australian who is currently on everyone’s radar because of his outstanding play at the United States Open against Novak Djokovic. It will definitely be a match to watch.

Federer began his extraordinary set of wins here in 2003, defeating Nicolas Kiefer quite soundly 6-1, 6-3. He followed up that win when he triumphed at Wimbledon a few weeks later, and the dance of the man known as tennis’ maestro began in earnest. Even though he will be 38 in August, he says that as long as he is able, he will continue to compete.

Tomorrow isn’t just another day – it is the day that Federer will begin his journey toward another win in the tiny town of Halle that nearly always leads him to a victory in London.

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Alexander Zverev Overcomes Blood, Sweat And Haase To Advance In Halle

Alexander Zverev overcame a late scare to beat Robin Haase in Halle.

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Alexander Zverev (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev overcame blood, sweat and Robin Haase to reach the second round in Halle 6-4 7-5. 

 

The German overcame a serious fall in the second set to beat Robin Haase in straight sets to reach the second round in Halle.

After a comfortable first set, Zverev won the last five games and recovered from a break down in the second set to reach the next round.

Next up in the second seed’s preparations for Wimbledon is Steve Johnson, who beat Philipp Kohlschrieber today.

It was a positive start from the world number five as he overcame early struggles to dominate rallies from the baseline.

After an aggressive start from Haase, Zverev took advantage of a poor game from the Dutchman to take an early break for a 3-2 lead.

That was the only break in the match despite Haase creating a couple of break points and moving the tall German around the court.

After sealing the opening set in 39 minutes, the second set was much more complicated from Zverev who needs a good week in Halle ahead of Wimbledon.

The second seed took a nasty tumble mid-way through the second game as he screamed in pain after twisting his knee, which needed treatment to clean up some blood.

In-fact after that incident, Zverev slipped twice more on the court as he wasn’t happy with conditions on Centre Court.

Meanwhile on the other side of the net, Haase had trouble taking advantage of Zverev’s dip in form as he failed to capitalise on a 3-0 lead.

That wasn’t the end of the world number 66’s troubles as he also failed to serve out the second set as he was just too predictable.

In the end the Roland Garros quarter-finalist completed a run of five consecutive games to seal the win and book his place in the second round.

On day one of the main draw there were also wins for Karen Khachanov, who beat Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets, and Pierre-Hughes Herbert.

The Frenchman beat compatriot Gael Monfils in straight sets, despite some more Monfils magic on show in Halle.

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Ebden Falls But Can’t Explain Why

Matthew Ebden, a quarterfinalist at Halle in 2018, faced Radu Albot, who was making his tournament debut, in the first round of the Noventi Open. Insights from the players about their exciting three set match were unavailable because of interview restrictions.

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Matthew Ebden (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

When people who are passionate about tennis learn that I am a tennis journalist, the first comment that is almost always made is – I would love to have your job.

 

More often than not I completely agree. True, there is the pressure of coming up with an interesting story idea then doing the necessary background research in order to produce a story that captivates readers. There are other issues to confront such as the number of words required, along with deadline times. But, overall being a tennis journalist is for the most part, interesting and enjoyable.

Today, it became less so. I decide to write about Matthew Ebden, the 31-year old Australian, who is No. 80 in the rankings. He faced Radu Albot, who is 29 and hails from Moldova. He is ranked No. 41. (Interestingly, both were born in November, Albot on the 11th and Ebden on the 26th.) They had only met once before. Ebden was forced to retire to Albot because of a foot injury, when he trailed 6-0, 3-2 at this year’s Miami Open.

The Noventi Open is a 500 event being played in Halle, Germany. Here, a columnist must send an e-mail to the ATP PR & Marketing people working the championship with a request to interview a player.

I did this asking to speak with Ebden. I explained that I wanted to follow up on the Ubitennis story I wrote last year when he entered the tournament as a Special Exempt and reached the quarterfinals losing 7-6, 7-5 to Roger Federer.

The response I received was – This has to be win only. What seemed worse was that the interview, if he won, needed to be conducted in the “Mixed Zone” not an interview room.  Having written about the game for fifty-years, the answer was bewildering, shocking says it better. The reason given was confusing, because it came from an individual whose job is to be a conduit so media members can have direct access to the player(s) enabling them to better tell a tournament story.

(For those not in the know, the Mixed Zone is a cramped area immediately the behind the court on which the match is played where a sweat dripping player tries to gather his thoughts while a journalist attempts to find a stable spot on a tippy round chest high table to rest his notebook and scribble comments or place a tape recorder.)

As disappointed as I was with the “win only” dictate, I was more disappointed by not being able to talk with Ebden. He is eloquent and thoughtful when he answers questions. As an aside, he enrolled in law/commerce at the University of Western Australia and would have become a lawyer had he not become a successful tennis professional.

Today, he ended up absorbing a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 defeat in two hours and eight minutes. “Win only” eliminated the opportunity to obtain telling quotes. As a result, “ATP Matchfacts” will have to provide a grasp of what took place. Ebden, one of the few serve and volleyers on the tour, had ten aces and seven double faults. Albot, who scampers around the baseline producing daring shots, had six aces and four double faults.

Slightly more telling was the fact Albot converted five of eighteen break points while Ebden was three of five. In the match, 203 points were played, and the winner collected 105. It is often said, “a point here and point there” determines the outcome of a match. Ebden earned 98 points and a mere seven points made the difference.

Again, I must apologize to Ubitennis readers. Matthew Ebden defines being a “professional” tennis player. It is a shame that the ATP PR & Marketing people behind the scenes at the Noventi Open don’t seem to be as professional.

 

 

 

 

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