There’s a price to be paid when both your children are Wimbledon-winning tennis players – going through the “torture” of watching them compete.
“I’ve found it harder and very stressful as the years have gone on, and definitely harder since they both got to the top of the game,” admits Judy Murray, 61, mum to Andy and Jamie.
“It’s torture watching your kids perform in anything where there’s a win/lose outcome,” she says. “I try to be calm and apply common sense to it, but it’s a mixture of excitement and tension that’s almost overwhelming.”
Murray – who is currently supporting the Sea For Yourself campaign to support local fishermen, by buying, cooking, eating seafood caught in UK waters – has a unique perspective, after years of being a court-side parent, as well as a professional coach and leading figure in women’s tennis.
“There’s adventure and excitement on the climb to the top. But when you get there, the expectation increases – from the sport, the public, the media – and it’s almost like you can only be knocked off then,” she reflects. “It takes a completely different mindset to stay at the top, from the one it takes to get to the top.”
Her sons’ record is impressive. Andy’s won 46 singles titles, including winning Wimbledon twice, while Jamie’s triumphed in doubles, also winning twice at Wimbledon. They’ve just competed in the US Open, and Andy is working on regaining his form following hip surgery after suffering with injury problems that pushed him close to retirement. It’s been “tough”, as his mother, watching his battle to recover over the last two years.
“As a parent, you want things to go right for your kids. Injury is part and parcel of sport, but this particular injury has taken much longer than anyone would have imagined to find the right way to fix it. He’s doing really well,” Murray says proudly.
Chatty and charming, Murray – who recently competed on Celebrity MasterChef – is clearly glad she’s shed her own unwanted title of ‘pushy mum’, which she even references wryly in her Twitter bio (‘Tennis coach. Pushy mum. Allegedly’).
“The media painted me as that in the first Wimbledon Andy played in, in 2005, when he was 18. They only showed pictures of me baring my teeth or fist-pumping,” she recalls with a sigh. “It was hard to take at the time, and you just have to keep reminding yourself that the people who matter – your friends and family – know the real you.
“In an individual sport like tennis, it’s the parents who have to make everything happen, and are much more involved than in a team sport. If Andy had been a footballer, I’d have been in a crowd and probably no one would have noticed me.”
Her own tennis career is distinguished. She was a Scottish international player, captain of Britain’s Fed Cup team, and in 2017 was appointed an OBE for services to tennis, women in sport and charity.
She regards the personal attacks on her as sexist. “It seems to be perfectly all right to be a competitive dad, but there’s something wrong with being a competitive mum,” she says. “After Andy won Wimbledon in 2013, I did feel vindicated, and then people saw the real me when I took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, and realised I was normal, could laugh at myself and have fun.”
Here, Murray talks to us about coping with her sons mocking her cooking skills, how lockdown has given her a new perspective on life, and looking after her health and wellbeing…
How was lockdown for you?
“It was good for me because it made me stay at home. Normally, I’m the sort of person who can’t stay still and I spend my time living out of a suitcase and jumping on and off aeroplanes, but I surprised myself by really loving slowing down.
“It really gave me a chance to reflect on where I’m at, where I want to be in the future, and who I want to do things with. I know now I probably don’t want to be working all day every day, or travelling around the world as much as I have done.
“I’m planning to scale back – but I don’t think I could retire completely because I’m so passionate about my work as a Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) community ambassador, and dedicated to bringing tennis into rural and disadvantaged areas in Scotland through my Judy Murray Foundation.”
You’re embracing cooking after years of teasing from your sons about your lack of skills – why is that?
“When I turned 60, I decided it was a milestone and about time I learned how to cook. Andy and Jamie do make jokes about my cooking all the time. While I admit it’s not something I’ve ever enjoyed particularly – giving a dinner party would be my worst nightmare – I do point out they seem to have grown up to be strapping, healthy young men, so my meals couldn’t have been that bad over the years!
“I’m loving sourcing fish locally and cooking some of the one-dish fish recipes from Fish Is The Dish. They’re quick and easy to do, with minimum prep and washing-up, which is perfect for me.”
What was it like competing on Celebrity MasterChef?
“It was a mix of fascinating but also terrifying and very stressful – my hands were shaking a lot of the time with nerves. Obviously, I never went in for it to win it [she was out after the first round] – and let’s say the family weren’t surprised at the result!”
How do you look after your health?
“Swimming, my favourite exercise, wasn’t possible for months, so my road bike turned out to be a saviour during lockdown. Exploring the local countryside kept me active.
“I also have a trampette for low-impact exercise, a padded hula hoop to work my core, waistline and quads, and I do stretching routines, holding a rubberised balance stick. I take vitamins, tablets to boost joint health and cod liver oil.”
How do you look after your wellbeing?
“Getting outside and exercising is incredibly important for my wellbeing. If I feel a bit low, I’ll take a long walk. I’m a pretty common-sense person and don’t believe in wallowing in things. I’m more a grin-and-bear-it and get through it type.
“It’s key to surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, shut out energy-sappers and negativity. As I’m quite a driven person, I need goals, because striving for those always help me get back in the saddle if life gives me a knock.”
Do you have any regrets?
“I had the opportunity at 17 to go to America on a tennis scholarship, but 42 years ago that was pretty well unheard of, and I wasn’t brave enough to do it. I stayed home and went to Edinburgh University, but I’ve often wondered how far I could have got if I had gone, especially seeing the level Andy and Jamie have achieved. But there’s no real point in looking back, generally I prefer to look forward.”
You’re single – would you like a partner?
“I’m not sure anybody would put up with me! I’m too busy, and after all those years of bringing up the family, I’m really enjoying being able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I’m currently quite happy and have a group of very good girlfriends to do things with, but never say never…”
Judy Murray is supporting the Sea For Yourself campaign to support local fishermen by buying, cooking and eating seafood caught in UK waters. For recipes, prep and cooking tips plus nutrition information, see fishisthedish.co.uk