Jonny English Reborn
by ATP Staff|
After spending the better part of a decade playing on the Challenger Tour, Wimbledon doubles champion Jonny Marray takes his place among the ATP World Tour’s elite at The O2.
Remember Wimbledon? In the 2004 movie starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, a player in his 30s wins the prestigious singles title ranked World No. 119. Three years earlier, Croatian Goran Ivanisevic achieved such a feat, for real, as the World No. 125. Afterwards, he said with pride, “I am now the champion of Wimbledon, whatever I do in my life I will always be Wimbledon champion.”
“Winning Wimbledon is everything I dreamed about doing”
On 7 July, this year, Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen knew exactly what Ivanisevic meant when their dreams became a reality as they lifted the Wimbledon doubles trophy. “Obviously, winning Wimbledon is everything I kind of dreamed about doing,” says Marray, who was inspired to play tennis after watching The Championships on television more than 20 years ago. “It’s something I’ll always have in the future. So it’s nice to kind of remind yourself occasionally, even after [a loss, when] you’re a little bit down, ‘I won Wimbledon, so it’s not the end of the world, is it?’”
Their achievement was a prelude to a glorious summer for British sport, highlighted by Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Briton to win cycling’s Tour de France; a haul of 29 gold medals at the London Olympics and Andy Murray’s own, well-chronicled, heroics.
Colin Fleming, who has enjoyed a career-best year with fellow Brit Ross Hutchins, says, “Winning Wimbledon was one of those runs that had that sort of destiny sort of stamp on it. You just think it’s meant to be.” It will go down as one of the sport’s greatest stories, alongside Stephen Huss and Wesley Moodie’s exploits in 2005, when as qualifiers, playing in only their second tournament together, the pair claimed the Wimbledon doubles title.
Over a two-week stretch at the All England Club, Marray and Dane Nielsen, grandson of 1950s star Kurt, joined forces as a last-minute pairing to beat established teams, such as Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, and Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau. Next week, they will join the world’s elite for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
For Marray, playing at The O2 in London will be a world away from years of toil on the ATP Challenger Tour. Jamie Murray, the 2007 Wimbledon mixed doubles titlist, remembers partnering Jonny to a Kazakhstan final. “They had this huge stadium, there was no one there watching; I mean, literally zero. And, of course, we win and they wheel out this camel for us. That’s our prize. Not even a trophy, just a toy camel,” he shares, laughing at the memory. “I’ve still got it. I wouldn’t give that one away.”
Making ends meet on the ATP Challenger Tour is no easy feat when you factor in the cost of travel, accommodation, food and other expenses. “You win one of the Challenger tournaments and you’re earning less than 1,000 dollars, 1,000 euros,” says Marray. So it may come as no surprise to learn that he has yet to spend any of his £130,000 prize money for winning the Wimbledon doubles title.
“He hasn’t spent any of his money,” says his older brother, Dave, a head coach at a club in Sheffield. “He’s still wearing old tee-shirts that he’s been wearing for the last two or three years. He’s got a car back at home, a little Ford Fiesta, that he drives around Sheffield and goes down to London in. He looks after the money that he’s earned and puts a bit away because he wants to make sure he can give himself the best chance to play as long as we wants to play. It was difficult, but he very rarely had to ask our Mum or Dad to give him money here or there. He’s been able to just get out there and get by on himself over the last eight to 10 years, which I think he’s pretty proud about.”
“Previously I was just scraping”
Marray started the 2012 season having won 10 tour-level doubles matches, small reward for a player blessed with good hands and fine balance. His professional life has been largely spent away from the spotlight. His former partner Murray admits life on the ATP Challenger Tour isn’t easy. “With the scoring system the way it is, they’re difficult tournaments to win,” states Murray. “There’s not a whole lot of money there either, especially for guys just playing doubles, so it’s important to try and win as many matches as you can, try to keep your ranking high enough so you can play on the main tour.”
In qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, it has given Marray extra incentive to work harder in order to prolong his career deep into his 30s. “Previously I was just scraping,” the 31 year old says. “So now, it’s nice to be able to get in the ATP [World Tour] events all the time now without any kind of panicking beforehand.
“I’d seen people in a similar boat to me, where they’d been in the Challengers for a while and they made the move up to the next level, so there’s obviously hope. All it takes is a good two weeks. You string six matches together. There’s always that possibility of it changing life for the better and having more opportunities.
“Throughout my career I’ve been trying my best, and trying to find a way to get the best out of myself and everything, as everyone does, I suppose. Sometimes it just takes a bit more time to get things more right than others. Things don’t go your way sometimes. Obviously it would’ve been nice if it did happen earlier, but at least it’s happened. You can’t look back, can you? You’ve just got to look to the future, and it will give me a lot of opportunities now. I’m just looking forward to everything that comes with it.”
The life of a tennis pro isn’t always fun, especially if you aren’t winning a lot. But winning the Wimbledon doubles title has given Marray a new level of confidence. He has always trained with vigour, but now he has renewed purpose according to his brother Dave. “He’s hitting the ball great; he’s a lot more relaxed about everything really. His belief in himself is definitely better. He’s still the same guy he always was, just maybe in his game he feels a lot more confident. He’s playing the best players in the world week in and week out at these big tournaments, so it’s another sort of obstacle he’s going to need to get over and he’ll be determined to do that for sure.”
Hutchins says, “Jonny just needs to build his confidence and have that belief that he’s able to beat the top teams on the hard courts as well as on the grass, which I think will come with matches, having wins, and growing in confidence from beating certain players at these tournaments.”
Next season, Nielsen will concentrate on his singles career, so Marray is on the look-out for a full-time partner. “Just as long as I’m fit, healthy and enjoying it and I feel like I’m doing myself justice, I will keep playing.” For the time being, he can ponder an offer to have his life on the small screen. “Some local person was asking about a documentary and I was kind of like, ‘I don’t really want that.’ I’d like to just get on with things, but who knows. It’s funny stuff, isn’t it?”