Q: Judy, now you have a new role as Fed Cup captain for Great Britain.Â How does it feel to be in this new role?
JM: Well, for me it was a great opportunity because, you know, I have always worked with junior players and then, obviously, became very familiarÂ with the tennis tour travelling with Jamie and Andy. But I really didn’t know anything about the women’s tour at all,Â or working with senior female players. So, you know,Â it was aÂ new challengeÂ and it came in a very good time for me, because obviously, Jamie and Andy are 24 and 26, so they are growing up, they have strong teams around them, andÂ they don’t need me around so much.
So itâ€™s perfect. For me it was a great time, so it’s a new challenge, and a big opportunity because to be able to like,Â captain your country,Â it doesnâ€™t get any better than that. So I justÂ decided that I would take it when it was offered to me. IÂ decided thatÂ I would give it a go. I think I started in December and I realized, because, of our Fed Cup tie was in February, i didn’t have enough a lot of time to get to know our players, to get to know the women’sÂ games. So, after Christmas, I spent part of December trying to get to knowÂ the British players better, that were likely to be on the team.Â And after Christmas, I pretty much went on the road to tournaments in Auckland, Tasmania, and Australia, in order to tryÂ and spend as much time as i could with our players, and also, to kind of scout our opposition.
So,Â I’ve hardly been at home all year, because of Fed Cup and because we did well in Israel, so we have another tie in Sweden, at end of April. That means I have to come out and support our players and watch how they areÂ performing and also to scout the Swedish players. So itâ€™s been quiteÂ busy so far.
Q: Sweden hasÂ two experienced players, Johanna Larson andÂ Sofia Arvidson, who is feeling confident after winning theÂ Memphis title in February, also, two younger players,Â Hilda and upcoming talented player,Â Ellen Allgurin. How is the Great Britain team compared to the Swedish team?
JM: Well, we have four players who can all play on the team, and when we were in Israel, everyone played. And the two older players, Keothavong and Baltacha played on the singles, and Watson and Robson played the doubles. Everybody performed well, everybody contributed. There was a greatÂ team spirit. I think there were a nice mix between the older players and the younger players coming through. And we had a lot ofÂ fun, and they all supported well and bolted into all the analyses we have done. So, for me the experience was great and we were hoping weÂ might get a home tie against Sweden, because it has been a long, long timeÂ since Britain were in that type of position.
Q: Britain is ahead 3-2 in the head-to-head but Sweden won lastÂ two ties. What are your thoughts on that?
JM: I think, you know, the Swedish team, they haveÂ two very good players similarly rankedÂ to Baltacha and Keothavong. I think it will be a close tie.
Q: You bring a lot of personal experience to this new position as well as being a former Scotland national coach, helping developing new talents with LTA, being in the spotlight with Andy and Jamie for quite a while on the tour, and spending timeÂ with theÂ Adidas team in Las Vegas. In which ways you use your experience on this new role?
JM: The way that I sawÂ was that the draw for theÂ Â Fed Cup in Israel was made in January, by which time I was in Tasmania, or maybe I was already in Melbourne, soÂ what we were able to do ,was we knew theÂ team that would be in our group, so we were able to watch all of their players during the Australian Open qualifying and the main draw, and we were able to obtain footage of their matches, and be able to really analyze and to plan the tacticsÂ for those opponents in a way that its harder to do at a normal tournament,Â because you just got a day to knowÂ who youÂ are playing in the next round. We had a lot of time to plan that for a while, we went out, five or six days before the event started in Israel. We went down quite early in order to get to know each other well, and just plan,Â because I didnâ€™t know the girls all that well so I wanted to have extra time with them too.
Q: Do you feel every player is unique?
JM: Everybody is unique, everybody is different, but not as much asÂ (the) way they play. But is want to get to know them as people, to know what they would respond to, what they might react badly to. Just to get a feel for how they liked to beÂ whenÂ you are sitting on the court with them because althoughÂ you have on court coachingÂ on the women’s tour once a set, butÂ you know, having someone seatingÂ besidesÂ you every changeover, not everyone likes that. But I think the main thing that I learned was just about to keep it very simple. Donâ€™t speak for the sake of speaking, if nothing needs to be said, donâ€™tÂ speak for the sake of speaking,Â just to fill in space. try to be very, very positive, very reassuring, and encouraging and just for them to know that you are truthfully on their corner.Â I thought I would be nervous doing that, because I have never done it before, the on-court part. But I actually once I got out there I was totally relaxedÂ about it and it was totally fine. Because I think the last thing the player wantsÂ to is toÂ know that the captain is uptight.
Q: Is the captain seeingÂ asÂ aÂ Mother figure?
JM:Â I have been coaching for a long time, I have been coaching, not in any major way, but I think I started coaching maybe just our local club, maybe twenty years ago, but most of my experience comes from working with young players in Scotland and working with Jamie and Andy and trying to help them develop their careers. But the thing I liked the most about the game is the tactical side of it, so, when it comes to doing sort of captaining or coaching for a team, for meÂ sort of analyzing the opponent, preparing a player to play specific people, I think thatÂ is the part of the game that I enjoy the most. ButÂ IÂ love coaching, I love teaching, and I think I like to understand people,Â how they work,Â how they learn, what they respond to, and you know to challenge yourself to find the right way to deal with different people.
With the girls I think in this role, it helps when you have kids on your own because it helps you to understand what they are going through when they are growing up.
Q: What’s the difference between coaching boys and girls?
JM: IÂ think it is. Girls need more reassurance,Â more like,Â keeping them happy,Â so they can feel good about themselves. Thatâ€™s one of the things I feel very strongly about when I am working withÂ the kids, or like this morning when I was working with Heather Watson. It is so muchÂ about making them feel good about themselves, whatever level they are at, because gives them confidence.
Q: How to you see the future of the young tennis generation in Great Britain?
JM: Watson and Robson, areÂ both very young and very different in terms of their game styles and personalities, and I think both of them because they are young, because they have not been known onÂ women tour for very long, itâ€™s all about learning the business, being a tennis professional, day in and day out. Everything you have to do, becoming independent, being able to make decision for yourself on and off the courts. I think when you are in the juniors, itâ€™s very much in a comfort zone. You have coaches traveling with you probably doing things for you. I think as you move on you have to become quite selfish to get to the top, you absolutely have to learn to Â work hard.
Whatever business you are with, if you want to be successful you need to learn working hard. Being away from home, your family, your friends, being on the road so much.Â There is a lot, and I think they are open, itâ€™s just the stage they are at. Learning their life as tennis pros. Both are very youngÂ Laura, 18, Heather ,19. I think they both have exciting future ahead of them. But you know, there is no rush.
Q: How is the support for tennis in Great Britain?
JM: I think very good, obviously we have a wealthy governing body, itâ€™s a grand slam nation. They have a big budget they can spend on developing players so they are able to support their players with a lot more opportunitiesÂ than smaller countries can. So I think, they are able to help, and if British players are good enough and choose to train at the National Tennis Center, they can take advantage of the great facilities there, and their coaching staff. But if they choose not to do that, then they get a lump sum of money to spend on their choice of coaches and other expenses and so forth, and the amount varies, depends on the level and stage the player is at.
I think the LTA is in a position to give very good support to better players because it can, and is able to. I think all of the big Slam nations are like that, because they make a lot of money from the Grand Slam, and lot of the money go to the development and they are able to support their players much better than smaller nations can.
Q: Did you invite some sports students from Stirling University to come to Sweden with the team?
JM: Yes, we are taking ten students from the StirlingÂ University, where i work, which is five miles from where we live in Dunblane, and the first indoor tennis center in Scotland,Â was built there. We are taking to SwedenÂ 10 students from Stirling University to be like aÂ cheer leading team for the fed cup. They are all Sports Developments students,Â so they will learn from being partÂ ofÂ thisÂ whole experience, and so again, you are educating young people and giving themÂ opportunities. They will haveÂ the right exposure to our website, doing fun tweets, things like that.Â
The winner between Sweden andÂ Great Britain will earn promotion into World Group II – the second tier of the FedCup.
Great Britain will play Sweden in Borashallen, Boras, Sweden
Date: 21 Apr – 22 Apr
Swedish team: Sofia Arvidsson, Johanna Larsson, Hilda Melander, Ellen Allgurin
Great Britain: Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson, Laura Robson