I'm know you're all gagging to hear something about the wedding but I'm saying nothing. I just hope it's dry, this being Scotland. It's just over a week away and it’s snowing in Dunblane right now. Marvellous.
After a great deal of travelling at the start of the year it’s wonderful to spend some time at home. Being at home always feels like a holiday to me. But if I thought it would be relaxing that spell was broken by the nerve-wracking, emotion-stirring experience of both Andy and Jamie playing in the Davis Cup in Glasgow. Against the US team, including the world number one doubles pairing, the Bryan Brothers, it was always going to be a challenge but it turned out to be one of the best weekends in my many years of tennis-watching.
As someone who has spent 45 years involved in Scottish tennis in one form or another, I never would have believed we would witness a world-class clash like this in our country - and one which involved two Scottish players and a Scottish captain. I can't really describe the pride I felt watching the GB team walking onto court.
Great Britain enjoyed Davis Cup victory over USA
The roar was fantastic. It was the first time Andy had been back playing in Scotland since he won his Slams and Olympic medal. So the welcome he had was amazing and the atmosphere was just incredible.
For James Ward in the singles and Jamie partnering Dominic Ingot in the doubles for the first time since they were teenagers, it was almost a once in a lifetime experience to be out there in front of 7,700 passionate Scots willing them on. All of the players rose to the occasion brilliantly. Wardy’s win over towering Jonathan Isner, 6’10” tall and ranked 24th in the world, was something else. You could actually see and feel the crowd lifting him.
It was a strange one for me personally. I love the Davis Cup, I love the team dynamic. It would be nice to be able to enjoy it more but I’m much more aware that if Andy doesn’t win then the team doesn’t win and therefore the pressure on him is enormous. Fortunately, in his first match he got on top of Donald Young quite quickly, although he switched off a bit at the start of the third set. That’s understandable when you’ve recently been playing so many best of three set matches - you win two sets and subconsciously think it's done.
Those are the most emotional moments for me, when the two of them are together. That’s real lump in the throat stuff."
One of the funniest things before the start of the match happened when Young came on court and stripped off his tracksuit trousers to do the warm up. The Stirling University ‘Barmy Army’ started singing the old comic song: ‘Donald Where’s Your Troosers?’ The cultural reference was probably lost on the Americans but it was brilliant for the Scots in the crowd...
The laughs were harder to come by from then on. It was nothing if not intense. Andy finds it agonising to watch the others from the bench and he finds it particularly difficult to watch Jamie. Not just in the Davis Cup. Ever.
He disappeared for a bit when Jamie and Dom started to go behind in the doubles. We tell him that’s what it’s like for us when we watch him at Slams. But he came back again and he really got into it. I don’t think people realise what it takes out of you being there and emotionally involved. It’s exhausting. It's also not good physically for the players to be sitting watching all day.
But for all the agony of watching, it was a great British victory in the end and I was really proud of both boys. Those are the most emotional moments for me, when the two of them are together, whether at the Olympics or the Davis Cup. That’s real lump in the throat stuff.
Jamie and Dom’s performance was fantastic up against maybe the greatest doubles team of all time. It was such an exciting match and a great showcase for doubles because it doesn’t normally get the prominence that I feel it deserves. For most club and recreational players that’s the type of tennis they most identify with. It’s the foundation of the club game. So I hope that was a message to somebody out there that we should invest more in promoting doubles at all levels.
The LTA made a decision to stop supporting the British doubles players at the end of last year, which was disappointing because we’ve had our biggest successes (outside of Andy) in the men’s doubles. There have been seven players inside the top 100, as well as Jamie winning the mixed and Jonny Marray winning the men’s doubles at Wimbledon. The success, without doubt, has been down to the LTA's top coach Louis Cayer, probably the best doubles coach in the world.
It would be good to find a way to rethink the decision, not just for our doubles teams but also for players like Andy, who so enjoy a big British presence at major events. It’s great to play with other Brits around you and not just feel you’re there on your own.
So much depends on having the best education, at professional level and no less at a very young age, if you are going to have any chance to negotiate the very tough path to the top of the tennis tree.
I've become so disillusioned with our inability to capitalise on the success of Andy and Jamie in Scotland that a while ago I decided just to get out there and do it. So, with the backing of RBS, I’ve taken to a van - full of equipment and people - around Scotland to build a work force from teachers, parents, students, volunteers and coaches of other sports. We show them lots of activities to develop skills for tennis and then we show them how to deliver by involving them with us in sessions with large groups of kids and teens at schools or community centres. It's all about what to deliver and how to deliver. It seems to be working well so far - we’ve trained up over 200 wannabe coaches already through our ‘Tennis on the Road’ programme - but I’d love to grow it still further. Heading to Dumfries this week to train even more...
So that’s something I’m working on. That and the wedding hat.