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The Murray Mafia

Joshua Mason

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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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Australian Open Day 9 Preview: The Quarter-finals Commence

We’re down to eight men and eight women remaining in the singles draws, and some established names are sharing the space with some fresh faces.

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The bottom half of the men’s draw was rocked on Sunday evening with Stefanos Tsitsipas’ shocking and thrilling upset of the two-time defending champion, Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal is now the only man on this side of the draw to have ever previously advanced this far at a Major. In the women’s bottom half, it’s a similar story. We have a two-time Wimbledon champion, a five-time Major quarter-finalist who is yet to advance further, and two women new to this stage. Will experience prove to be key, or can the debuting Major quarter-finalists continue to break new ground?

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Frances Tiafoe

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This is Nadal’s 37th Major quarter-final, and he’s 29-7 in this round. However, it’s worth noting he’s only 5-5 in quarter-finals at the Australian Open. Rafa has quieted the doubts regarding his physical status coming into this tournament. He’s utterly dominated his first four opponents, with no sets lost and only one that went to a tiebreak. Nadal dismantled Tomas Berdych on Sunday, losing just one game in the first two sets. Frances Tiafoe has been one of the biggest breakout stars in a tournament that’s had many. The 21-year-old American upset Kevin Anderson in the second round, and backed that up with a comeback victory over Andreas Seppi in five sets. And on his 21st birthday in the fourth round, Tiafoe upset Grigor Dimitrov in four. It’s hard to imagine Frances will have much left in the tank, especially up against perhaps the most unforgiving competitor in the sport’s history. In their first career meeting, Tiafoe’s only real chance will be to successfully hit winners early in points. This should be another straightforward win for Nadal on his way to the semifinals.

Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Ashleigh Barty (15)

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Speaking of red-hot lefties who have destroyed their opposition, Kvitova is yet to allow an opponent more than four games in a set at this tournament. She’s on a nine-match win streak, dating back to her title last week in Sydney. This is actually a rematch from the exceptional Sydney final, where Kvitova defeated Barty in a final set tiebreak. Petra is now 3-0 against Ash, though their last two matches both went the distance. I was concerned Kvitova would be exhausted during this fortnight coming off the hard-fought final in Sydney just two days before this tournament began. Fortunately a slimmed-down and fit Kvitova has looked extremely fresh. A long-time sufferer of asthma, I’m sure the cooler conditions in Melbourne have helped her. Barty is coming off the biggest win of her career, after taking out Maria Sharapova in a dramatic match to reach her first Major quarter-final. The Aussie No.1 will have the full backing of the crowd on Rod Laver Arena. But with the way Kvitova has been playing, defeating her will be a tall task. Petra is looking for her first Major title since the last time she won Wimbledon in 2014. Unless her level significantly drops today, I like her chances.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (14) vs. Roberto Baustista Agut (22)

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These two men have been inspirations in Melbourne. The 20-year-old Tsitsipas shocked the tennis world by upsetting 20-Time Major Champion Roger Federer in an excellent match on Sunday night. And Bautista Agut is coming off a personally challenging year, where he dealt with the sudden death of his mother as well as an ailing father. That makes it all the more impressive that he’s yet to lose a match in 2019. And consider the names he’s beaten this year: they include Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych, and Karen Khachanov. That’s six current or former top 10 players. With fellow Spaniard David Ferrer retiring later this year, Roberto has earned the right to inherit the affectionate title of “Little Beast,” as coined by Brad Gilbert. After winning his first round of 16 match at a Major in his tenth attempt, despite an extremely tough draw, what could the 30-year-old possibly have left? He’s survived three five-setters, and been on court for over 14 hours through four matches. However, one thing I learned this past week is to count out Bautista Agut at your own peril. And Tsitsipas is coming off the match of his life: a victory over his idol that lasted nearly four hours. An emotional and physical letdown following such a win would not be surprising. And Stefanos did appear to be cramping a bit midway through the fourth set of that match. But with a more offensive game, and a strong belief in himself, Tsitsipas should prevail in his first career meeting with Bautista Agut.

Danielle Collins vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

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I don’t believe anyone had this pencilled in as a quarter-final when the draws were announced. The 25-year-old Collins had never won a match at any Major prior to last week. But wow, did she make a statement by demolishing the No.2 seed, Angelique Kerber. The feisty Collins basically took the racquet out of the 2016 champion’s hand, hitting 29 winners in the 14 games that were played in that match. Pavlyuchenkova similarly blasted 46 winners (although they came with 53 unforced errors) in upsetting the fifth seed, Sloane Stephens. Lindsay Davenport on Tennis Channel in the US correctly suggested how dangerous Pavlychenkova might be at this tournament after her second round upset of another top 10 player, Kiki Bertens. The 27-year-old is certainly a streaky player. She’s only been to the fourth round at a Major six times in her singles career, but she’s reached the quarter-finals on five of those six occasions. And while Anastasia is yet to win one of those quarter-finals, this is a huge chance to do so against an American college player who is completely inexperienced at this level. One would assume Collins will be hard-pressed to maintain her incredible form of a round ago, coming off the biggest win of her career. In another first-time career meeting in today’s quarter-finals, the experience of Pavlyuchenkova should prove to be valuable.

Order of play

ROD LAVER ARENA

Not before 0130 GMT

  • 22-Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) v 14-Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)

Not before 0330 GMT

  • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) v Danielle Collins (USA)

Not before 0800 GMT

  • 8-Petra Kvitova (CZE) v 15-Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
  • Frances Tiafoe (USA) v 2-Rafa Nadal (ESP)

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Novak Djokovic Outlasts Medvedev To Reach 10th Australian Open Quarter-Final

Novak Djokovic is into his 10th Australian Open quarter-final with a four set physical win over Daniil Medvedev.

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Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is into his 10th Australian Open quarter-final after a 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3 win over Daniil Medvedev. 

The six time champion was less than convincing but dug deep to seal his place in the last eight with a four set win over Medvedev.

In the quarter-finals he will now play Kei Nishikori who battled past Pablo Carreno Busta in five hours and five sets.

The Serb was looking to play better than his previous round against an in-form and crafty Medvedev, who won the most matches on hard courts in 2018.

After a decent start from the Russian, a few loose errors gave the Djokovic key break in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead. The 15th seed continued to work the angles throughout the contest and punished Djokovic’s lack of focus as he gained the break back in the ninth game.

Eventually though the top seed refocused and broke straight back as he sealed the first set 6-4 in 40 minutes as he looked to build on his lead.

It was more of the same from Djokovic as he controlled the points from the baseline. Despite not converting any of his six break points in the third game he eventually raced to a 4-1 lead.

However there is a reason why Medvedev won 38 matches on hard courts last season and he immediately found a response by breaking back and making the match into a physically exhausting battle.

As a tiebreak loomed the Russian produced his best tennis moving the Serb from side to side as he powered through his shots.

After overcoming some nerves, the world number 16 converted his third set point to take the second set in a brutal 71 minutes.

The match continued to get more physical as rallies between 30 and 40 shots occurred as Medvedev’s craft was earning some good points.

However the Russian started to fade out as Djokovic proved to be the stronger competitor in the third and four sets despite some heavy stretching from the world number one.

Two breaks of serve was enough for Djokovic to take a two sets to one lead with a tactically good match saving his chances of reaching the last eight.

In another late finish in Melbourne park, Djokovic broke twice more in set four as Medvedev vented his frustrations as the Serb came through a tough match in four sets.

The win means it’s the tenth time Djokovic has reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and after the match explained how difficult the match was, “It was difficult to go through him. I had to find a different way,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview.

“I was fortunate to save a couple of break points. In this kind of matches you have to hang in there and wait for your opportunities.”

Next up on Wednesday is Kei Nishikori after he won a five set epic with Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(8) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-4 7-6(10-8).

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Serena Williams Topples World No.1 Halep To Reach Australian Open Quarters

The former world No.1 moves to three wins away from equalling Margaret Court’s all-time grand slam title record.

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16th seed Serena Williams has fired a warning shot to the rest of the draw at the Australian Open after downing world No.1 Simona Halep 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, in the fourth round.

Gunning after a record-equalling 24th grand slam title in Melbourne, the 37-year-old went off guns blazing before engaging in an almighty tug of war with her opponent. The pair lit up the Rod Laver Arena with a series of gut-busting baseline rallies that featured numerous angle shots. Williams prevailed with the help of nine aces and 44 winners to progress to the last eight in Melbourne for the 12th time in her career.

“It was a really intense match and there were some incredible points. But, you know, I love playing tennis and I love being out here (on court).” Williams said during her on-court interview.
“It’s really cool to be back out here and playing on this court.”

The highly anticipated clash between two of the top players on the women’s tour turned out to be a Williams annihilation at first. The power of the 23-time grand slam champion overwhelmed Halep as she roared through the first set in just 20 minutes. Making the world No.1 look extremely ordinary. After dropping her opening service game, Williams went on to win six games in a row. Hitting the ball deep towards the baseline and using angle shots to move her opponent around the court. The clinical first set was closed out with a 177 km/h ace out wide from Williams.

Following her comprehensive start, Williams soon encountered some stiff resistance from Halep in set number two. Drawing applause from the Melbourne crowd who were cheering for a competitive match. The Romanian began to capitalize on errors made from across the court as she matched Williams game-by-game.

The resurgence of the top seed eventually rewarded her as she tamed Williams’ aggressiveness on the court. Boasting a 5-4 lead in the second, a double-handed backhand down the line granted Halep break point and the chance to take proceedings into a decider. She was able to seize the moment with the help of a Williams error on the following point. Prompting a mini celebration by Halep.

With a place in the quarter-finals at stake, both women illustrated their highest level of tennis throughout the decider. Williams’ lightning shots was muzzled by some emphatic play from Halep. Six games into the deciding set, Williams fended off a trio of break points during a marathon service game to keep her chances alive. A game later, she secured the break for 4-3 with the help of a Halep forehand slamming into the net. That break was enough as the American rallied towards the finish line. Sealing the win on her first match point after a Halep forehand drifted long.

“I really needed to elevate my game. She’s (Halep) the number one player in the world and there’s a reason why. She’s just a great player.” The 37-year-old reflected about her performance.
“In order to stay out there I had to play a little like I knew I could and I did. I think that was the difference.”

Williams’ reward is a showdown with Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday. The Czech seventh seed crushed Garbine Muguruza in her fourth round match earlier in the day. It will be the fourth meeting between the two with Williams leading their head-to-head 2-1.

“If Serena is playing at her best, then it’s tough because she can serve, put a lot of pressure on her returns, but she can also miss. So we will see.” Pliskova commented about the upcoming match.

The win is Williams’ first over a world No.1 player since Victoria Azarenka at the 2013 Brisbane International.

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