By Ros Satar
- Judy Murray steps down after five years at the helm of the GB Fed Cup team
- GB have twice advanced to the play-off matches to join the World Group but on both occasions lost at that stage
LONDON, UK – GB Fed Cup team captain Judy Murray has stepped down from her role but is expected to continue her involvement promoting tennis at the grassroots level.
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Murray was appointed in 2011 to help lead GB in the women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup, but despite twice advancing to the play-offs, GB has remained in the Europe/Africa Zone.
She saw success with the established stalwarts of the team including Former British No. 1s Anne Keothavong and the late Elena Baltacha, along with then up and coming Laura Robson, Heather Watson and Australian Open semi-finalist Johanna Konta.
However this year, with Konta struggling with an ongoing intestinal issue post Melbourne, the team drafted in Katie Swan who won her first two matches before GB lost in the final round to attempt to earn passage to the play-offs.
In a statement to the LTA, Murray said: “I’m stepping down as Aegon GB Fed Cup captain to spend more time with my family and to focus on my grass roots programmes, ‘Tennis on the Road’ and ‘Miss-Hits’. Tennis on the Road is aimed at building a delivery workforce across Scotland in order to grow participation, while Miss Hits is a fun starter programme for girls age 5-8 that can be delivered by female coaches and teachers.
“I’ve loved the challenge of leading the team over the past five years, raising the profile of the event, our players and women’s tennis in this country. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the players, support staff and the fans for their commitment to the team over the years.”
Murray replaced Nigel Sears, now coach on the WTA tour to former World No,. 1 and French Open champion Ana Ivanovic. Similarly to Leon Smith, Murray helped build a strong team identity with the players, known for their team poses.
That unification was seen when young Swan made a winning debut in the pool matches for Great Britain, drafted in after Konta withdrew citing an ongoing intestinal issue, but GB came up short in the final pool play-off against a strong Belgian side.
“It’s a big regret for me that we didn’t make it to the World Group, but what we have now is a pool of players capable of competing at that level. We just need them all to be available and fit to play at the same time.
Murray continued: “The Fed Cup format is in desperate need of a revamp. Team competition engages players and fans much more than individual events. It’s crucial we use this global competition as a means of attracting and retaining girls in competitive tennis at every level. That requires more countries to have the opportunity of playing home and away ties so we can showcase our sport. The GB team has been stuck in the 16-team Euro- Africa Zone for an eternity.
“We play four countries in four successive days in February and only two teams qualify for a playoff opportunity to progress to the World Group. If you don’t make the play off, there’s nothing until the following February making it impossible to build any momentum on or off the court.
“The Fed Cup should be leading the way in promoting and showcasing competitive women’s team tennis at all levels and in all countries. Things have got to change. Everyone can see the buzz created around the home ties and team tennis at all stages of the Davis Cup. Fed Cup should be afforded a similar format.”
The ITF praised Murray’s efforts in a statement on the Fed Cup website, saying:
“Judy Murray has been a dedicated Fed Cup by BNP Paribas captain for Great Britain and we are sorry to see her step down. Her energy and commitment to her team were very much in the spirit of Fed Cup and she will be missed.
“Like many captains and nations, Judy would like to see the Fed Cup format changed to a 16 team World Group which would allow more movement of teams from Zonal Groups into the World Group. This is a view shared by ITF President David Haggerty who with the board are looking at reforms to Fed Cup as well as Davis Cup. The ITF Board has an upcoming meeting where various reforms will be discussed, some of which may be brought to the ITF Annual General Meeting in June for consideration of approval.”
Michael Downey, Chief Executive of the LTA said: “British Tennis and our players have been fortunate in having a captain of Judy’s unique tennis knowledge, passion for the game, and sense of fun steering our Fed Cup campaign for the last five years.
“No doubt she has left an indelible mark on all the players she has worked with on the team, the support staff and inspiring other GB female coaches along that journey. On behalf of British Tennis, I would also like to personally thank Judy for her commitment.
“In terms of next steps, we will begin an open recruitment process shortly and aim to announce a successor well before the end of the year and 2017’s February Fed Cup tie.”
The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, which is the largest annual team competition in women’s sport, continues on 16-17 April with the Play-offs and World Group semi-final.