Duchess of Cambridge and Andy Murray discuss Wimbledon with young tennis fans

10 July 2020, 15:43

Duchess of Cambridge and Andy Murray join young tennis fans on call

By Matt Drake

Sir Andy Murray surprised young tennis fans by joining the Duchess of Cambridge on a video call during what would have been Wimbledon.

The tennis star described the cancellation of Wimbledon as a "shame", and suggested that as an ageing player his days of competing in Grand Slams are numbered.

But in advice to young players he told them that winning and losing were not crucial, and said: "Enjoying playing a sport and being active is the most important thing."

His comments came during a surprise appearance at the Duchess of Cambridge's virtual visit to a south London school, and he confessed he had spent much of his time keeping fit by riding his bike rather than practising on court.

During the video call, Sir Andy was asked by Kate if he missed playing matches and he replied: "I think missing the big competitions, because I'm getting old for a tennis player, you never know how many opportunities you're going to have left to play the biggest competitions.

"So missing Wimbledon this week is obviously a shame."

Sir Andy, a double Wimbledon Men's champion, is likely have been playing in the famous SW19 tournament that would have concluded this weekend if the coronavirus outbreak had not forced its cancellation.

The duchess and the player joined the children at the end of their lesson with AELTC head coach Dan Bloxham
The duchess and the player joined the children at the end of their lesson with AELTC head coach Dan Bloxham. Picture: Kensington Palace

His career was put in doubt after he was plagued by a hip problem that required surgery in 2019, but he returned to the sport and last month competed in the Battle of the Brits tournament, reaching the semi-finals.

Speaking during the video call, made last week, to pupils from Bond Primary School in Mitcham, the tennis star, who has three young children with wife Kim Sears, said he had found the first five or six weeks of lockdown manageable.

But he admitted he had "started to find it probably a bit harder to find things to do for the kids, to stay creative with ideas and games for them to enjoy".

He said: "We're doing the home schooling which is difficult. It was difficult, but at times I really enjoyed it as well."

He did not play tennis for around 10 weeks, he said, instead staying in shape with cycling.

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"I was going out on my road bike, which was something I've never done before, so that's something kind of new that I learned I enjoy during lockdown," he said.

"It's quite important in these times to stay as active as you can because it is good for the mind as well."

The duchess told him: "There's lots of budding tennis players here at Bond Primary School as well. Have you guys got any questions you want to ask Andy?"

The player was asked why he picked tennis as a career, whether he remembered his first tennis match and comebacks from difficult times.

Sir Andy spoke of the importance of having good family and friends around him to help "moving forward and working hard through setbacks".

Kate asked: "And, Andy, have you got any tips for these guys if they want to take up tennis a bit more professionally?"

"The most important thing is to have fun," said Sir Andy.

"If you're enjoying it, you get more out of your lessons and your practising. Listen to your coach, that's very important. That's the two most important things at your age.

"If you're competing or playing any matches, try really hard in them.

"But winning and losing isn't the most important thing. Enjoying playing a sport and being active is the most important thing.

"If you do go on to choose it as your career, obviously the winning and losing changes a bit."

During Wimbledon fortnight, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC), which runs the championships, has been staging Wimbledon Recreated - a campaign to promote the tournament, tennis and sport through coverage of archive matches.

Sir Andy became the first British male in 77 years to win the Wimbledon singles championship in 2013 but Kate, patron of the AELTC, was missing from the final as she was pregnant with Prince George.

She was in the royal box with husband William three years later to see his second title victory.

The duchess and the player joined the children at the end of their lesson with AELTC head coach Dan Bloxham, and Kate asked them about their time in lockdown and whether they have missed their friends, hearing about their new school regime of social bubbles.

Kate visited the school in January 2018 to see the work of the Wimbledon Junior Tennis Initiative, the AELTC's community tennis programme, which sees coaches deliver free tennis sessions to school children in the London boroughs of Merton and Wandsworth.

Commenting about the outbreak, Sir Andy added: "There's been some challenges but I guess sometimes when you go through difficult moments like this you learn to appreciate the things you maybe took for granted sometimes?

"I'll definitely make sure I spend more time with my family and friends when I get the opportunity."