Judy Murray is still smiling. She “can’t stop” smiling. She’s been smiling “all week”, since that moment at 5.25pm on Sunday when her son Andy fulfilled his lifelong ambition of winning Wimbledon, and collapsed on the turf in ecstatic relief.
We’ve come to rely on Judy, 53, as a conduit for the sweep of emotions that go with competitive tennis. From triumph to despair she shows it, in air boxing, yelling, fist-clenching, grimaces, tears (both kinds). Before Sunday, smiles were rare. Now they’re big and beaming. Her face folds easily into them, revealing a row of perfect white teeth.
“I could hear my heart beating in that final game,” she says. “It was absolutely thudding. I tried to stay calm. I thought, ‘If he looks up and he sees me panicking that’s the last thing he needs’. And when I saw the ball going in the net, that he’d won, that was it. I was gone. I was so happy for him.”
“And I wasn’t even looking as he was rolling around on the ground. Leon Smith beside me was shouting, ‘You have to look! You have to look! Your son has just won Wimbledon!’ And I was trying to look but I was so conscious of, ‘Oh God, now everyone’s going to be looking at me and I’m crying my eyes out here!’”
Judy’s stab of self-consciousness is surprising. It intensified, she says, when Andy, 26, fell into the crowd to be congratulated — by Ivan Lendl, his coach, by Kim Sears, his girlfriend. Every mother the length of the country was urging, between gritted teeth: “Andy! Hug your mum! Now!”
She laughs: “It didn’t matter to me in the slightest but everyone around me was shouting, ‘What about your mum?’ I was too far back! He was standing on this canvas roof that was quite flimsy, and he could only reach over so far. And I thought, ‘I’m not running down there, because that looks naff’.”
Fortunately, Andy climbed back up. His first words to her were typical of the family’s off-court restraint. “Hi mum,” he said.
“So yes, that was nice,” she says.
The difference between Judy on and off-court is stark. In the stands, labels like ‘stone-faced’ and ‘aggressive’ have been slapped on her. Boris Becker wolfishly intoned, “Judy really wants it,” over her more passionate performances.
In person she is a slim, tidy Scot, self-composed and soft-spoken. She sits straight in her chair, wearing her sports kit and sipping a bottle of (Scottish) mineral water.
Her image has softened lately — not least her much commented-on hair, gone from ignored-brown to a “white hot blonde” (as described by her hairdresser). Her make-up is all smoky greys, brightening her eyes against her deep tennis tan. One senses the touch of Simon Fuller, the Beckham’s Svengali, who was behind Andy’s transformation from “dour” teenager into smouldering, chiselled Vogue model, three years ago.
“Oh well, no,” says Judy. “I’m not glamorous at all. I think I’m just the same as I’ve always been. I’m perfectly comfortable in a tracksuit, or my jeans and a hoodie. I totally am.”
What about the Alexander McQueen dresses and the shimmering Jenny Packham gown? “Oh, I was glamorous that night, but that’s not like me, no,” she protests. “They do a great job at Wimbledon. They have an assortment of ball gowns and accessories because no one knows who’s going to win. That’s the first time I’ve ever been in a long dress and it’ll probably be the last.”
But later she comes back to this, admitting that although she’s the “same as I always was” she indulges herself a bit. “In the last few years it’s probably the first time in my life that I’ve had some money to be able to buy nice clothes if I want to,” she says. “And that makes a difference as well. And you can afford to look after yourself a little bit more.”
Formerly the Scottish national coach, she is currently both captain of the British Fed Club team and coaching British junior girls. She’s been coaching full-time for nearly 20 years — and not, as it is so often said, moulding the careers of her sons (Andy’s older brother Jamie, 27, is also a champion tennis player — he won the mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 2007).
“I’m very passionate about tennis, full-stop,” she says. “I’m not just a mum who follows her son around the world, telling him what to do. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
She does tennis’s grand slam tournaments “because they last three weeks total and that’s when you need family”. She clarifies: “They might not need you to do much, just knowing you’re there. Every top player’s the same.”
So why was she always singled out? “Perhaps because I coached a boy. You have fathers and sons; fathers and daughters; mothers and daughters. Mother and son: almost unheard of in top-level sport. I can’t think of any other explanation.”
Being the mother of all tennis mothers had consequences: hate mail. “A lot were typed on old typewriters. Old people, who thought, ‘Oh my God she’s shocking. Women shouldn’t do that sort of thing’. They weren’t into fist-pumping. They’d cut out pictures from the papers that showed me like this [she pulls a grimace]. They said I was aggressive. I’m not aggressive; I’m competitive. A big final I’ll be like this [she pulls the face again]. The letters say, ‘You’re inciting aggression in your kids!’ And you think, ‘What are you talking about?’”
Some blamed the contrast between her and the middle-class Jane Henman, mother of Tim, whom she followed into the British consciousness.
“Mrs Henman is absolutely delightful,” says Judy. “She’s amazing. But we’re very different.”
Now she has fans. Her Twitter count jumped from around 20,000 to more than 80,000 followers in the months preceding Wimbledon (“I tweet rubbish, mostly about cakes”). And photographers wilfully catch her smiles. She still has her steel, though. “Experience toughens you,” she says.
Young Judy, then Judy Erskine, was the Scottish No 1 in her day. “It meant nothing — no one played,” she says. “I was decent, not good enough. There were no coaches — you learned by playing.”
Lack of opponents drove her to tournaments abroad. “I was broken by a trip to Barcelona aged 17,” she says. Money her parents wired was stolen from her bag in a packed bus, along with her passport and ticket home.
“When I got off, everything had gone. I sat on the pavement and shut my bag again and opened it again. I couldn’t believe it. I was alone, I didn’t speak the language.” She made it back with embassy help, but “My dad said, ‘Nuh. You’re not doing this any more’.”
She went off to read French and business studies at Edinburgh University, playing sport in her spare time. “I‘ve never been a crazy-day person. Going to pubs never interested me, nor parties, stuff like that.” (This may explain Andy’s shock when she bowled into a press conference after his win at the US Open last year, flanked by Sean Connery and Alex Ferguson. “You smell of wine,” he said. “He made me,” Judy answered, pointing at Ferguson.)
After university she briefly tried fashion retailing, starting as a trainee manager with Miss Selfridge, and then turned to coaching. After Andy was born — 15 months after Jamie — she and her husband Will moved back to Dunblane, her hometown, to be near her parents.
She taught the boys ball games from an early age — something she is now keen to translate to other communities through her charity Set4Sport, supported by RBS. Tennis should break its middle-class constraints, she believes. When I meet her it’s in a playground at Kobi Nazrul Primary School in Whitechapel, teaching very happy four- and five-year-olds co-ordination through catch (“It’s Judy Murray!” “Judy Murray’s here!” I hear echoing down corridors).
“This is what I did with my children. These things are free,” she says, “and it gets parents involved.”
Two subjects are hard for her: her divorce from Will in 2005 (they’d separated earlier, but “the boys have always had two parents”). And March 13, 1996, the day a gunmen walked into Dunblane Primary and killed 16 children and a teacher. Both sons were in the building when it happened. Today she says: “Nobody ever forgets what happened, but when people say ‘Dunblane’ now they think of Andy and his success. And I think that’s… I’m really happy about that.”
When she’s not in Scotland she stays with Andy, Kim and their two border terriers in Oxshott, Surrey. She gets on with Kim (they watch The Apprentice together, walk the dogs and talk to Andy while he takes his post-match ice baths in the Jacuzzi).
How was Sunday night? It was “quarter to three in the morning before we got home”, she says. Did they flop? “No! Andy wanted to watch that last game. He couldn’t remember it, which is unusual for him. We’d recorded it, so that’s what we did. We went through all the emotions again a wee bit. The ‘Oh God, it really did happen!’”
Today, it will be five days since Andy held up the trophy, the first British men’s winner since Fred Perry. And Judy’s still smiling. Just thinking about it, she’s smiling.