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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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Alex de Minaur Says US Open Breakthrough Was A ‘Dark Time’ For Him

A milestone performance at a major is usually a reason for celebration but for the world No.23 it was bittersweet.

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A turbulent 2020 season marred by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has only added fuel to the fire for Australia’s top ranked player Alex de Minaur.

 

The 21-year-old Sydney-born player is currently ranked just five places below his career high at 23rd in the world. At present he is the third youngest player in the top 30 on the ATP Tour after the Canadian duo of Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Last year de Minaur broke new territory at the US Open with a run to the quarter-finals in what is his best performance at a Grand Slam to date. At Flushing Meadows he scored wins over the likes of Richard Gasquet, Karen Khachanov and Vasek Pospisil. He was stopped in his tracks by Dominic Thiem who went on to win the title.

Despite his New York run, de Minaur believes it wasn’t his ‘best achievement.’ Even though he had only reached the fourth round of a major once in 11 attempts leading up to it. For him, mentally he wasn’t in the best place due to the effects lockdown had on him last year. During the 2020 Tour shutdown he was residing in his training camp in Spain.

2020 was a tough year. Obviously I had my best result at a Slam (Grand Slam tournament) but it doesn’t feel like my best achievement, de Minaur told ABC News Australia.
“It was still a dark time. I wasn’t feeling great. It was just mentally — I wouldn’t say — my best performance.
“I ended up putting a couple of matches together and I had my best result. It’s still something to be proud of but still 2020 as a whole, I would say, I had a lot of expectations for it and … it’s just fuelling the hunger for 2021, to make it even better.”

Striving for a bigger and better year, the Australian started 2021 off in the best possible way by winning his fourth ATP title at the Antalya Open in Turkey. His most high-profile win at the tournament was over world No.16 David Goffin in the semi-finals. As for the months ahead, de Minaur is staying coy about his expectations.

I’ve got my goal in my head of where I want to be when 2021 finishes up, but it’s a goal that I don’t like to say out loud,” he said.
“It’s a goal that me and my team had and this is a strong start. Realistically I want to keep pushing myself up the rankings, keep putting myself at the end of weeks and keep pushing these top guys.
“That’s where I believe I should be and where I want to be and I’ll do everything I can to get there.”

The next test will be the ATP Cup where de Minaur will be hoping to guide his country to the title. It was at the tournament last year where he suffered an injury which ruled him out of the Australian Open.

“Hopefully I can be playing my best tennis at the ATP Cup and the Aussie Open,” he concluded.

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Tennis And Data: Methods Used To Collect Information And How Much Each One Cost!

The latest instalment in our series of articles on data in tennis. Today we are going to talk about systems to gather data, from the most expensive (such as Hawk-eye) to the up-and-comers like FoxTenn.

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We told you about who uses data to win and what that data actually is – from the raw to the finest, the Hawkeye data. Today we will talk about how they are collected. The latest episode in our recurring series on tennis and statistics is dedicated to data generators for tennis courts and generally to the understanding of the so-called “constellation” of tools dedicated to the collection of tennis data. 

 

The analysis focuses on data generators installed on tennis courts which can be easily divided into three categories:

Devices dedicated to refereeing during competitions that offer the following services: supervision of balls landing close to the lines, match statistics, video replays, data analysis for fan engagement and transmission of streaming services;

Devices specialized in tutoring and training services that offer on-court monitoring of athletes, video analysis, retro analysis (feedback) as well as playful dynamics (gamification);

Portable devices, flexible enough to perform both refereeing functions as well as the collection of match statistics, while also serving as training tools by means of their application functionalities.

A tennis court is considered a “smartcourt” when a technological component is permanently or semi-permanently installed on the court and it is positioned and secured/protected in order not to interfere with the movements of the athletes or hinder them during a game. This analysis is based on an article published on the Sports Technology blog, which can be found at this link. The most common hardware technology used by these devices is a combination of computer vision cameras. Moreover, there are also radars, sound sensors, lasers, and pressure sensors. 

While data collected through the sensors installed in the racquets and the so-called “wearables” are, so to speak, one-dimensional (they are calibrated on the tennis player who uses the tool or wears the sensor itself), those collected through smartcourts possess a two-dimensional component, recording rallies between players involved in official tournaments or training sessions. Therefore, while the first will in the future be used to prevent injuries by being tailored to the person, the second shows an ever-increasing usefulness in the strategic analysis of matches, monitoring the effectiveness of shots against a rival. 

Let’s move on to the analysis of the first category of devices, those dedicated to refereeing. 

1. Smart referees 

Three products may be assigned to this category: FlightScope Tennis, Hawkeye Innovations and Foxtenn, all of which have been approved by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), boasting the status of PAT (Player Analysis Technologies). All ITF-approved products that have PAT status are available at the following link. Therefore, they are used in international tournaments such as the Grand Slams and the WTA and ATP circuits. 

FlightScope Tennis

Estimated cost: 35-40 thousand euros per court on a weekly basis 

This one has probably the longest history of merging technologies and systems developed over the years, having done so since 1984. Flightscope was founded in South Africa in 1989 and it merged with the Polish company Jagro in 2008 to form Flightscope Tennis at a later date. Today, the main products offered by the company are the live scoring system and the line call system which also include ball and player monitoring. 

The live scoring system mainly uses cameras, radars and the Proscorer, which is a tablet for the chair umpire. Therefore, all the collected data are used during a match through visualizations and the distribution to the television media.

The line call system mainly consists of video cameras mounted on each court, with 4 high speed cameras and 8 other specific cameras for line calls. When there is a line call, the data is processed and provides an update to the referee via the official review application. Additional ball tracking data, such as flight parameters and trajectories, plus player tracking data such as motion patterns and heat maps, provide additional interpretations and analysis available to the various stakeholders of the sport in question.

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Operation scheme of line calls

Hawk-Eye

Estimated cost: 60-70 thousand euros per court on a weekly basis 

The Hawk-Eye system was created in the UK in 1999 and it was used for the first time in cricket (in 2001) in a test match between Pakistan and England. It was then used in the Davis Cup in 2002, then at the Australian Open in 2003, and it became an official tennis refereeing system in 2005. In 2010, Hawk-Eye was acquired by Sony. In competitions it is mainly used for electronic calls during matches, but the system also provides statistics about each player on every shot, service and rally.

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Layout and arrangement of cameras

Source: http://www.studiosayers.com/ 

Essentially, the tracking system is based on the principles of triangulation, using visual images and timing data captured by high-speed cameras installed around the stadium, cameras that are calibrated and synchronized before each event.  These are usually positioned high above the courts in such a way that they can capture the trajectory of the balls with minimal obstructions. 

Although there has been some controversy regarding the accuracy of the line call, which is able to guarantee a margin of error up to 3.6 mm, the system is generally considered to be reliable and accurate except for a few borderline cases. With regards the heated debates concerning the availability of the data generated by Hawk-Eye for fans, media and third parties external to the ATP and the IT companies appointed by the Slams, we plan to deal extensively with the subject in the next article. 

FoxTenn

Estimated cost: less than 50 thousand euros per court on a weekly basis 

The latest addition to the industry is FoxTenn, a company founded in 2012 and based in Barcelona, which has developed a technological system to compete with the status quo of line call accuracy.

The system is made up of 40 (ultra) high-speed cameras and 10 high-speed lasers positioned around the court. Each high-speed camera can capture images at 2500 frames per second (FPS), which is over ten times faster than any other system. Another difference compared to Hawk-Eye is the placement, as they are positioned at the far end of the court, and at ground level, rather than above it

C:\Users\OLYMPIA\Desktop\Personal Andrea\UBITENNIS\T-TOOLS\Pics Products\FoxTenn Set up.png

Layout and arrangement of video cameras and lasers on the ground 

Foxtenn thinks its ground-level approach avoids many potential errors found in other existing systems. First of all, with the cameras installed above the stands, there is the possibility that the view of the ball can be obstructed by the players or by objects moving between the cameras and the court; ground cameras are so close to the action that there is little or no possibility that this might occur

Moreover, cameras mounted above the stands can be more sensitive to wind vibrations and even to the movement of fans walking in the stands. Tracking can also be affected if the ball hits the net or if it has a high trajectory – this could lead to a less accurate estimate of where the ball landed. 

Foxtenn’s system captures real footage of the bounce and tracking is not affected by the aforementioned situations. Having been approved by all the major tennis federations, FoxTenn could potentially become the most used “Line Calling” technology in major tennis

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EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Top Names Get Preferential Treatment But That’s Part Of The Tour’

Marcelo Demoliner celebrated his birthday in quarantine, his doubles partner isn’t allowed to leave his room for 14 days and he believes there is a difference in treatment between the top players and others. Yet, he refuses to complain about the situation he finds himself in.

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Marcelo Demoliner pictured during the 2020 Australian Open. image via https://www.facebook.com/mdemoliner89)

Like his peers, Brazil’s Marcelo Demoliner passes his time in Melbourne quarantine by training, sleeping, eating and posting amusing videos on social media.

 

Demoliner, who currently has a doubles ranking of world No.44, is required by Australian law to abide by a strict isolation period before he is allowed to play any professional tournament. Although he is allowed to train unless he is deemed to be a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19. An unfortunate situation 72 players find themselves in, including Demoliner’s doubles partner Santiago Gonzalez

During an email exchange with UbiTennis the Brazilian sheds light on what he labels as an ‘usual experience’ that has prompted criticism from some players. Roberto Bautista Agut was caught on camera describing conditions as a ‘prison’ in a video leaked to the press. Although he has since apologised for his comments. Demonliner himself is not as critical as others.

“It is an unusual experience that we will remember for a long time,” he told UbiTennis. “It is a very complicated situation that we are going through. Obviously, it is not ideal for us athletes to be able to go out for just 5 hours a day, but mainly for the other 72 players who cannot go out, like my partner Santiago Gonzalez. They have a complicated situation of possibly getting injured after not practicing for 14 days, but it is what it is.’
“We need to understand and adapt to this situation considering Australia did a great job containing Covid.”

With three ATP doubles titles to his name, Demoliner is playing at the Australian Open for the sixth year in a row. He has played on the Tour for over a decade and has been ranked as high as 34th in the world.

Besides the players complaining about food, their rooms and even questioning the transparency of the rule making, Tennis Australia also encountered a slight blip regarding the scheduling of practice.

“I was a little lucky because I stayed in one of the hotels that we don’t need to take transportation to go to the training courts. It made the logistics issue much easier. The other two hotels had problems with transportation and logistics in the first two days, but I have nothing to complain about, honestly.”

Demoliner remains thankful for what Tennis Australia has managed to do in order for the Australian Open to be played. Quarantine can have a big impact on a person mentally, as well as physically. Each day players spend at least 19 hours in their hotel rooms which was no fun for the Brazilian who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday.

“Without a doubt, it is something we have never been through before. I’m luckily having 5 hours of training daily. I am managing to maintain my physical preparation and rhythm. It is not the ideal, of course, but I can’t even imagine the situation of other players who are in the more restricted quarantine.”

image via https://www.instagram.com/MDemoliner/

Priority given to the top names

As Demoliner resides in Melbourne, a selected handful of players are spending their time in Adelaide. Under a deal struck by Tennis Australia, officials have agreed for the top three players on the ATP and WTA Tour’s to be based in the city. The idea being is that it will relieve the strain on Melbourne who is hosting in the region of 1200 arrivals.

Craig Tiley, who is the head of Tennis Australia, has insisted that all players will have to follow the same rules wherever they are based. Although some feel that those in Adelaide have some extra privileges such as a private gym they can use outside of the five-hour training bubble. Japan’s Taro Daniel told the Herald Sun: “People in Adelaide are being able to hit with four people on court, so there’s some resentment towards that as well.” Daniel’s view is one echoed also by Demoliner.

“I do believe they are receiving preferential treatment, quite different from us. But this is part of the tour,” he said.
“The top tennis players always had these extras, we are kinda of used to it. We came here knowing that they would have better conditions for practicing, structure, hotels… they also have merits to have achieved all that they have to be the best players in the world. I don’t know if it’s fair, but I believe the conditions could be more similar than they are in this situation.”

Some players were recently bemused by a photo of Naomi Osaka that surfaced on social media before being removed. The reigning US Open champion was pictured on a court with four members of her team, which is more people than what those in Melbourne are allowed to train with.

https://twitter.com/mdemoliner89/status/1351079924719898632

As the Adelaide contingent continues their preparations, those most unhappy with them are likely to be the 72 players who are in strict quarantine. Demoliner is concerned about the elevated risk of injury that could occur due to the facts they are not allowed to leave their rooms. All players in this situation have been issued with gym equipment to use.

“I think that they will be at a considerable disadvantage compared to who can train. But we need to obey the law of the country, there is not much to do … until the 29th they will have to stay in the room and that is it,” he said.
“Whether it is fair or not, it is not up to me to say because I am not in this situation. The thing about having the other players who didn’t have contact with the positive cases to also stay in the rooms is the concern about the risk of injury, specially for singles players. It will be a tough challenge, especially at the beginning of the season.”

In recent days, officials have been holding video calls with players to discuss ways to address these concerns ahead of the Australian Open. Which will start a week after they are allowed to leave their rooms.

When the tournaments do get underway there are also questions about how the public will react to players who have made headlines across the country for their criticism of the quarantine process. A somewhat sore point for Australian’s with some nationals unable to return home due to the government restrictions. On top of that, people in Melbourne are concerned about a potential outbreak of COVID-19.

It is a very complex situation. I fully understand the reaction of the Australian population considering the recent events… the effect that the players are bringing, the risks to the population,” Demoliner said of the current circumstances.
“We know this and obviously they are concerned with the whole situation, which is still very uncertain. On our side, though, they did allow us to come here to play. It is important to remember that the decision to welcome us was approved by the Australian Government, otherwise we would not be here.”

Demoliner is one of three Brazilian doubles players ranked to have a top 100 ranking on the ATP Tour along with Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo.

SEE ALSO EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Players Can’t Act Like Spoilt People’

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