The man responsible for growing tennis in Aberdeen believes Andy Murray is the reason for the sport’s boom in the UK, Scotland and north-east.
Yesterday, former world number one Murray, 31, tearfully announced his plans to retire after Wimbledon in the summer.
The two-time winner at SW19, speaking ahead of the Australian Open, has been struggling for close to two years with a chronic hip injury.
Matt Kerswell, Sport Aberdeen’s tennis development manager, says Murray has boosted tennis’ profile nationally with his three grand slam titles – he also won the US Open in 2012.
However, Kerswell also explained how, by hailing from Scottish tennis’ North County, which includes the north-east, Murray has given players around the Granite City a direct example to follow.
Kerswell said “Apart from the things which are applicable nationally – like raising the profile and the increase of people playing the game statistically in Scotland – at a north-east regional level, the thing the players are particularly proud of is that he comes under North County. He is a North County player.
“The County Cup is something a lot of players will participate in, in terms of the best juniors and adults, the top 10 or 15 players in each county.
“Having Andy, who has played at a lot of the competitions as a junior, it’s quite exciting for the players to look at the trophy and say ‘Andy Murray won this trophy 12 years ago’.
“That happens up here more than anywhere else, because he played at these events as a child. He won them all.
“His brother Jamie played County Cup just last year, so they are still very much connected to the North County.
“It’s an example of someone they can draw a lot of similarities with.
“Historically, it would be players on the Tour they didn’t have much in common with.”
Double Olympic gold medallist Murray also inspired north-east players in 2005 when, barely an adult, he defeated Greg Rusedski to secure the Aberdeen Cup for Scotland at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.
Kerswell added: “In terms of people playing the sport, he is responsible for the growth.
“Off the back of his name it’s meant the national governing bodies have been able to leverage a lot of sponsorship and funding to support grassroots programmes.
“It puts the racquets in the kids’ hands, especially a lot of charity programmes where tennis has been brought to areas of the city which traditionally wouldn’t have tennis.”
Kerswell, who has been in Aberdeen for 10 years and worked with Judy Murray, the star’s mum, on her tennis initiatives, thinks the Murray name is universally recognised.
He said: “You’ll struggle to find any child in school in Scotland who doesn’t know who Andy Murray is. His mentoring programmes have helped a lot of the best players in Scotland, so he’ll probably invest a lot of time into that.
“I suspected he was going to struggle (to keep playing), because it was well documented he was in pain.”
Tennis Scotland chief executive Blane Dodds said: “The news from Sir Andy Murray’s media conference is clearly extremely sad for all fans of Andy and indeed tennis, but most of all for Andy himself.
“The outpouring of love and respect from across the tennis world and beyond only serves as a reminder of his incredible career achievements and the high esteem with which he is held, recognising his immense contribution to the sport as well as to countless causes.
“We must all cherish and enjoy every remaining moment we have with Andy playing the sport he loves.”