May 1, 2020
Judy Murray doesn’t think budding tennis players should be discouraged by the lockdown.
After all, her title-winning sons, Andy and Jamie first developed their skills when they were stuck at home as small children.
And the path those famous Murray brothers took as toddlers had fascinating parallels with the historic development of tennis itself.
Speaking to fellow Scot Lorraine Kelly, another popular television personality in Britain, Judy demonstrated her great knowledge of tennis in centuries gone by.
It’s not only perfectly natural to start playing tennis without a racquet, she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme. It’s how the first players did it, too.
And playing that way certainly didn’t do the Murray boys any harm.
Judy explained: ‘Initially it was when Jamie and Andy were very small, to keep them occupied and active, usually when the weather was very bad and they were stuck inside.
‘So their first games of tennis were hitting balloons across the sofa. That was their net. And they were just using their hands.
‘When tennis was first invented it was just played with hands and a ball. The “bat” came later.’
A bit of research shows that Judy is spot on about the origins of the sport we all love.
The earliest recorded form of tennis was called “jeu de paume” or simply “paume” – referring to the palm of the hand which was used in the French game.
This fun precursor to tennis found expression in the monastic cloisters of northern France.
First a bare hand was used to hit the ball. Later a glove was introduced.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that racquets were thrown into the mix.
The mother of Britain’s super-successful Wimbledon stars always knew she had tennis history on her side as she watched their early progress.
‘So it has always made sense to me to use the hands first and then add the racquet a little bit later,’ she added.
‘Being in lockdown and on my own, I’ve been inventing all sorts of new things that can keep people playing and developing their skills for tennis while stuck inside.’
Murray feels it’s just a question of using what you have to hand and your own imagination.
It’s not so hard to create a fun environment where reflexes are tested and developed – without wrecking the house!
The makeshift ball can start off slow and become quicker through the air depending on your choice of raw material.
She explained: ‘Balloons are great! They don’t break any windows and they go slowly so everybody can use them.
‘Bean bags are great! And if you don’t have a bean bag you can just roll up a pair of socks.
‘You can use a ball of string, too. And you can use some of that string to make a little net.’
When you want to progress from “paume” to modern tennis, you don’t necessarily need a conventional racquet either.
She laughed and showed us her latest creation. ‘Attach a paper plate to a wooden spoon and away you go!’
Ever-positive Judy believes the Murray brothers can both be fighting fit for Wimbledon 2021.
She added: ‘They’re both training. They’ve both got small gyms in their houses. So they’re able to follow their fitness programmes.
‘Jamie’s showing how to do a lot of his workouts online through YouTube.
‘Andy’s got himself a hitting-wall. So he can hit balls against that wall in the driveway, which is great because he’s itching to hit again.
‘At the same time he is able to spend a lot of time with his family.’
Looking ahead to Wimbledon 2021, Judy is very optimistic about the Murrays and their likely contribution to what promises to be an extraordinary event.
Like all of us, she is going miss the All England Club come mid-summer this year.
She admitted: ‘I’ve been going to Wimbledon with Andy and Jamie every year since they were juniors in 2002.
‘So it’s going to be a very strange year for the whole family with it not being on.
‘But Wimbledon will be there next year. It is more than twelve months away.
‘So it gives everybody plenty of time to plan and prepare for it. And to be as fit as they can possibly be.’
Spot on Judy. Missing a year could play right into Andy Murray’s hands, too.
No reason why Jamie can’t make Wimbledon 2021 a roaring success as well.
We can already sense just how special and unique the next Wimbledon will be.
Imagine the feeling when those famous club gates open to us all once more. In that moment, we’ll know the wait has been worth it.