Murray-mania helps serve up more interest in tennis
MURRAY-MANIA has come to Swansea as we fall in love with tennis.
Andy Murray’s scintillating victory in the US Open in New York this week has sent more than ripples across the Atlantic with a wave of excitement, more akin to a tsunami of tennis fever, reaching our shores.
While the British number one is a proud Scot who hails from Dunblane he no doubt has happy memories of visiting Swansea as a youngster having won a local tournament.
Murray, the first Scot, and the first Briton since 1936, to win a grand slam tennis championship, won the boys Under 12s singles event in the Langland tennis tournament back in 1997 as a fresh-faced 10-year-old future star.
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While interest in the sport has been gradually rising as Murray’s form grew over the summer, starting with a Wimbledon final appearance, leading to an Olympic gold and culminating in the success at Flushing Meadows, demand for tennis courts in Swansea is set to rocket.
General manger of Swansea Tennis Centre in Morfa, Barry Cawte, said: “We started getting calls the morning after Murray’s victory in New York but it’s not just his US win that has made tennis popular, it is his Wimbledon final appearance and, of course, his Olympic gold.
“The main thing is it has put tennis on the map outside of Wimbledon and it was done by a Brit.
“He is only 25 and I think that he will become world number one and this is in an era where he is against some of the best players of all time, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, so to win a grand slam against those guys is an amazing achievement and it makes kids think ‘I would love to do that’.”
Mr Cawte, who has been pushing tennis in the community since helping to save the centre last year, added: “We have a fantastic chance to reach young children and introduce them to the sport.
Murray is a great role model and he makes people believe that they can be successful as well. Just as watching the Olympics made people want to go out and try cycling and swimming, Murray’s win will turn people on to tennis.”
Mr Cawte said Swansea Tennis Centre, which has the only indoor pay and play courts in south Wales, was in talks with the council to offer sessions in the LC and Bishopston from October.
A Swansea Council spokesman said: “Interest in our tennis courts has been high over the summer and hundreds of youngsters have no doubt been inspired by Andy Murray.
“Our links with Andy go back to 1997 when he won the boys U12s singles event in the Langland tennis tournament.
“Swansea is also one of eight cities being piloted by the Lawn Tennis Association as a community tennis project. The outdoor tennis courts at the Swansea Tennis Centre were re-surfaced in readiness for the Wimbledon and Olympic tennis tournaments and the LTA is working with the Council in identifying other courts across the city for investment.
“We’re also working in partnership with Tennis Swansea 365 in delivering a city-wide tennis programme. This included a successful summer programme at the Tennis Centre and several city parks and will continue throughout the autumn and winter at the Tennis Centre, Morriston Leisure Centre and Bishopston Sports Centre.”
Meanwhile Roger Draper, the LTA chief executive, hopes Murray’s historic success can help turn around a fall in the number of adults playing the sport.
Mr Draper said: “When Andy won the Olympics, 4,000 new members signed up in the space of a week. The message we are getting is that there has been an upturn in people wanting to get involved.
“We had a drop-off in adult participation and then a bit of a bounce back and we know we still have a lot to do, particularly on the adult side of things.
“Certainly Andy's success keeps people talking about tennis and the big job now is to convert them from armchair followers into real tennis players.”