By Ros Satar
- Britwatch’s Ros Satar met with Judy Murray during the WTA Finals in Shenzhen
- In the first of three articles, we spoke Britain’s Fed Cup journey and the new formats
SHENZHEN, CHINA – At the WTA Finals this year, we were lucky enough to chat with Judy Murray, including Britain’s Fed Cup journey and next week’s new format, which will apply to Fed Cup next year.
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The WTA Finals was one part of the end of the season, with eventual winner Ashleigh Barty, together with compatriot Sam Stosur and one half of the doubles winning partnership Kristina Mladenovic hot-footing it to Australia for the final Fed Cup in its current format – a final hosted in Australia and won by France.
While obviously there were not as many French fans as Aussie fans, boy did they make themselves heard, lifting their team in the decisive doubles rubber to secure a win for the visiting nation.
Earlier this year, the women’s GB team finally had the home tie phenomenon that we have seen many times up in Glasgow as the men’s team were carving their way towards a memorable win in 2015.
Judy Murray was the GB Fed Cup captain for five years and GB often played in the group settings before making World Group II play-offs.
All stirring stuff, and next week will herald a new age for the historic Davis Cup competition. Gone will be the stirring memories of GB winning in what felt like an aircraft hangar in Ghent. Instead Team GB will join 17 other countries in the Caja Magica for a round-robin frenzy and then heaven only knows what for the quarter-finals onwards.
There are pockets of very vocal fans – although there were plenty of empty seats at the Kazakhstan tie, those of us who remember the same fans at the Copper Box with their inspired drum and brass section, that same trombonist is here and together with the other fans and band members, they did a great job of making themselves heard.
Talking to her at the WTA Finals in China, we discussed the changes and how it might affect both competitions, starting with reminiscing about the moment that Great Britain got back into the World Group.
She said: “It was incredible, and I think for a number of reasons. You’re sitting watching that crowd, the excitement, the home tie and it took me back to my first Fed Cup tie, we went to Israel and we were in the Euro/Africa Zone and there literally one man and his dog watching us. It was like playing in a club match. you’re playing at an outdoor community centre. And when you’re in those zones, if you’re not the host country, there is nobody watching you. there is literally no media there.
“So, if you compared that, where we were then to where we have got to know, and I’ve always said Fed Cup should have home and away ties, all the way through the competition the same way that Davis Cup had, to give every country the opportunity to showcase women’s team tennis to its people. And so, I always knew that because we are a Grand Slam tennis nation, having seen the excitement that has built over many years of the Davis Cup, that the same thing could happen with the women.
“And it did, and it was great to see that. Yeah let’s hope that in February, it bears more fruit.”
Now that the Davis Cup is underway, the time for criticism is over and it is time to focus on the last push of tennis for this season.
She continued: “I think it’s got to a stage where it’s going to happen, and you have to go with it. You have to wait and see. really, it’s as simple of that. Let’s see if the players like the new format. Let’s see of the fans enjoy the neutral venue or not.
“I think you do have to listen to the players and the fans. the fans are our market, the players are our performers. I have reservations about the loss of the home and away thing because of the ability to showcase your team, your sport in your home country.
“It’s a bit like football – can you imagine if every football match was played in a neutral venue. And actually, with tennis, because it’s an individual sport most of the year, the team opportunity happens so rarely that it’s a massive chance to grow your fan base because it’s much easier to get fans in number behind a team, whether that’s local or national. You know it’s fun to travel in packs, you create that roar. I’m not sure how easy or whether that will be the same in Madrid or not. But we just have to wait and see. It is how it is now.”
GB will face Netherlands on Wednesday and the drums and trombones of Kazakhstan on Thursday.
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How to watch the Davis Cup Finals
|Eurosport 1/Eurosport Player
|Monday 18 November||3pm – 9pm|
|Tuesday 19-Saturday 23 November||10am – 11pm|
|Sunday 24 November||3pm – 9pm|
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