Jamie Murray says Britain’s top men’s tennis players jumped at the opportunity to take part in his Battle of the Brits – Scotland v England event at Aberdeen’s P&J Live.
It was revealed yesterday Jamie and his brother, two-time Wimbledon champion Sir Andy Murray, will play in the two-day elite sporting event at the Granite City’s 7,000-seat arena on December 21 and 22.
The English team, which will be led by current British number one Dan Evans, is still to be confirmed, while Cameron Norrie and Jonny O’Mara are expected to represent Scotland alongside the Murrays across three sessions of action, which will include four singles rubbers and two doubles matches.
Jamie revealed all of the players he approached, whose chances to play team tennis are limited to representing Britain in the Davis Cup, jumped at the opportunity to play in the Scotland v England clash.
He said: “When I approached all the boys about doing it, they thought it was the best thing ever, because we don’t really get the chance to go up against one another, put it all on the line with a lot of people watching.
“It’ll be a lot of fun, a great atmosphere and noisy – we want people coming in their kilts, Scotland shirts, facepaint and all that stuff.
“We want them to have a good time, a good night out. We’re hoping we’ll have some live entertainment on top of the tennis as well that we’re trying to put together.
“There will be something for everyone there, even if you’re not an avid tennis fan.”
Tickets for the event, which is expected to benefit local charities, went on general sale at 1pm yesterday.
Tournament director Jamie, a seven-time Grand Slam champion in men’s doubles and mixed doubles, thinks the fiercely competitive nature of all sporting meetings between Scotland and England guarantees exciting tennis, played in a raucous atmosphere.
He hopes all of the players involved can have good seasons and then Great Britain can perform strongly in November’s Davis Cup finals to crank anticipation for the Aberdeen event up to fever pitch.
Jamie said: “For me, the team events create the best atmospheres in a tennis court and other sports as well.
“People who are coming to the event are supporting someone – Scotland or England, or in Davis Cup it’s Great Britain. In regular tournaments, they are there to watch tennis, rather than support one person.
“With this, everyone’s got a vested interest and there’s that buy-in. That’s where you get the passion from.
“Scotland v England is one of the oldest rivalries in sport. It doesn’t happen that often (that they meet) across sports, certainly not in tennis.
“I think it’s a pretty unique set-up we’ve been able to create.
“Hopefully all the boys have a good year, Britain does well in the Davis Cup and it builds up nicely to our event.”
The Murrays have rarely had the chance to play in their homeland. When they have, it’s invariably been in Glasgow and, as a result, they haven’t performed in front of their Granite City fans for more than 15 years.
In the interim, Andy, as well as success at the All England Club, has won the US Open, back-to-back Olympic gold medals and been ranked the best men’s singles player on the planet.
Jamie, who is a former world number one in doubles and with his brother helped Great Britain land the Davis Cup in 2015, knows support has only increased for Scotland’s tennis heroes during their careers, and is looking forward to rewarding this backing in December.
He said: “Our opportunities to play in Scotland are non-existent really, unless the Davis Cup has come to Scotland, because we don’t have any live tennis events there.
“Especially with the career Andy’s had and stuff, the interest which has built for the sport in Scotland is huge, but our opportunities to play in front of those fans has been few and far between.
“For us, this is a great opportunity to do that.
“It’s not like we’re getting any younger either, so the chances are limited by the years.
“We’re really excited about the chance to play in Scotland and represent Scotland.
“We’ve had great experiences in our careers representing Britain, but we never get to represent Scotland. Likewise for the English players, they don’t get to represent England because we are always together representing Britain.
“I think that will be cool and all of the players are really excited about that aspect of it.”
‘We were just starting out really. I remember playing in the matches, having people there, being piped on and stuff’
Andy and Jamie Murray will play in front of a Granite City crowd for the first time since 2006 in December.
The Scottish tennis stars’ last matches in the north-east came as part of the Aberdeen Cup, with a Murray-led Scotland team beating an England side helmed by Greg Rusedski at the old Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) two years running.
Jamie looks back fondly on the experience, saying: “We were just starting out really. I remember playing in the matches, having people there, being piped on and stuff.
“It was really cool and a good couple of days.
“The company that put on the event did a great job for us as players coming to play in it.
“I don’t know from the fans’ perspective, but it was a great couple of days.
“Andy was just starting to do well in his career then. I don’t know what his exact ranking was, but he was working his way up to the top.
“Now, 15 years later, with everything he’s achieved and I’ve been able to achieve, the opportunity to come back again is really exciting for us.”
Announcements from both the UK and Scottish Government this week revealing when we could see initial steps to ease the coronavirus lockdown have left Jamie feeling confident the brothers, now in their thirties, will be able to play in front of a full P&J Live come the end of the year.
He said: “From the fans point of view, we are very positive about that based on the news that has come out in the last couple of weeks from London and Edinburgh.
“The vaccine roll-out seems to be going well so far and, with the dates they’ve put in place for having the whole country vaccinated, we’re optimistic that by the end of the year we’ll be able to play in front of a lot of people again, which is what we want to do.
“What’s fun for us is getting out, competing and playing in front of fans. They’re the ones who create the great atmospheres we get to play in.
“In the few times we’ve played in Scotland, it’s been incredible the support we’ve had, representing Britain in Davis Cup and stuff like that – it’s been mental.
“We want to recreate that and that’s the whole point of the event – to give people something to look forward to throughout the year as we look to a more positive future.
Jamie says Andy is in ‘good place’ and ‘just needs opportunities to compete’
Jamie Murray thinks brother Andy is in a “good place with his body and tennis”.
Andy, 33, this week played his first ATP Tour match in four months, losing in straight sets to Egor Gerasimov at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.
The three-time Grand Slam winner made a high-profile comeback after hip resurfacing surgery following two years of injury struggles between summer 2017 and summer 2019, returning to doubles action before tasting singles success once more when winning the European Open in October 2019.
However, he managed only seven competitive matches in 2020 due to further injury problems and the disruption caused by Covid, and was forced to miss January’s Australian Open due to a positive test for the virus.
Asked how he views his brother’s prospects this season, Jamie said: “I think he can have a successful season for sure.
“The biggest issue for him over the last few years has been getting fit and being able to get a clear run events and playing week after week on the tour. Finding out where his level’s at and where his body’s at. Being able to build that robustness again.
“But it’s been so stop-start for him and last year he was ready to start playing again, then Covid came and it meant five months off.
“I think he’s in a good place just now with his body and his tennis, he just needs the opportunities to compete basically.”
Jamie, who reached the men’s doubles semi-finals in Melbourne with partner Bruno Soares, and is currently self-isolating at home – apart from when training at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton – hopes there will be less disruption to the competition calendar in 2021.
He said: “I got back Sunday and will be home for, for sure, two weeks. We then go to Mexico to play in Acapulco, and then Miami.
“Four or five events pulled out at the start of the year, but the calendar is usually congested at this time of year, so there are still a lot of tournaments going on and opportunities for players to play. It doesn’t feel like they’ve lost a lot of tournaments.
“No one has pulled out past April. That’s not to say they won’t, but I think everyone’s looking forward and hoping for better.
“For us, as players, the biggest thing is: will there be fans? Then how many? Because obviously it’ll be restricted to some limit. Some are 10%, some are 20% (of capacity), it’s not much.
“We’re living in the bubble all the time, doing the testing.
“If you test positive, you’re stuck in a hotel room for seven days, 10 days, 14 days, depending on the country you’re in, which is stressful.
“It’s not like if I pick it up in London and I can just go home for 14 days – that’s not the end of the world – but to be stuck in a hotel room in Mexico for 14 days wouldn’t be that much fun.”