It is gloriously sunny, the sort of day when you would expect a world-class tennis player to be practising shots ahead of his next tournament. Instead, doubles champion Jamie Murray is preparing to give 25 consecutive interviews about his tennis career, something that will require as much stamina as any championship match.
Despite his busy schedule, Murray is supporting the year-round Benenden Tennis Festivals, backed by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which are designed to encourage children into the sport. Before playing tennis with children in Regent’s Park, he sits with his headphones on, long, well-muscled legs stretched out, feet on a chair, ready for the questioning to start.
‘It’s the better-looking Murray brother,’ quips a BBC radio announcer to his audience. Murray breaks into a gap-toothed grin, clearly enjoying the swipe at Andy, his younger brother by 15 months and his victorious Davis Cup doubles teammate. But as the interview begins, he shares happy anecdotes about growing up.
‘It was inevitable we got into tennis really,’ he says. ‘When we were about three or four our mum would be teaching tennis at the local sports club just across the road and Andy and I would be round the back of the courts, picking up the balls and generally making a nuisance of ourselves. It was natural that we’d pick up a racquet at some age.’
He says he and his brother enjoyed a healthy competitiveness. ‘We used to play games that we made up, and all sorts of sports too. Andy’s a better footballer and rugby player, but I’m the better golfer.’
He insists the brothers were ‘encouraged’ rather than pushed by their parents. He showed early talent and at 12 was invited to attend the Leys School, an LTA-sponsored training centre in Cambridge. But he found being away from the family home in Dunblane difficult, so after eight months he went back, and then took some time to get back into tennis.
‘If you’re doing well at a sport, you keep interested,’ he says. ‘It was the same with me and tennis. I did stop when I was 15 for a few months and started playing more golf, but I felt if I wanted to have a career in professional sport, tennis was going to give me the best chance, so I came back to the sport.’
It was worth it. In March this year he was the first UK player to reach number one in the men’s doubles game. ‘Doubles suits me — I am good at volleying,’ he says, laughing. ‘Finding a partner is a bit like asking out a girl. You’ve got to pluck up the courage, although more often than not you text them these days.’
During his career he’s partnered more than 40 different players. In 2015, he played with his brother Andy and won the men’s doubles in the Davis Cup. Since January, he has played with the Brazilian player Bruno Soares. Together, they were victorious in the Australian Open and they have just won the US Open title.
He sees his brother at tournaments, but now the person he looks forward to seeing the most is Sophia, his eight-month-old niece. ‘Being an uncle is cool,’ he says.
3 reasons to take up tennis
1. It’s a great way of keeping fit and having fun with friends.
2. It helps develop your hand-eye coordination, is a non-contact sport and can be played by anyone at any age.
3. With many people playing into their older years, it really is a sport for life and provides a great opportunity to meet new people.
See the Lawn Tennis Association website at lta.org.uk/competitions/family/benenden-tennis-festivals to find out more about Benenden Tennis Festivals, which run through the year.