THE opening of a new “world-class” tennis centre in Edinburgh will aim to help youngsters have an “easier path” to success in the sport than that faced by Andy and Jamie Murray, the sports minister has said.

The £4.5 million Oriam Indoor Tennis Centre was officially opened on Wednesday by Maree Todd and principal and vice chancellor of Heriot Watt University, Richard Williams.

It comes after the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) discovered a few years ago that compared to the rest of Europe, Scotland had much fewer indoor courts despite having worse weather and producing Grand Slam-winning players.

The facility – which opened its doors to the public just before the new year - boasts six courts which are open seven days a week and are available to players of all ages and abilities on a pay-as-you-play basis, meaning membership of Oriam is not required.

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Four more indoor courts will be opened up to the public later this year at another similar facility in Elgin at Moray Sports Centre, with both projects having received funding from the Transforming Scottish Indoor Tennis (TSIT) fund.

Todd told The National she is excited about how the centre in Edinburgh will significantly improve access to the sport, helping Scotland to build on the legacy left by the Murray brothers and wheelchair tennis champion Gordon Reid who, in 2016, were all world number one at the same time.

She said: “A wee country like ours produced a singles champion, a doubles champion and a wheelchair champion. For a wee country, that really is punching.

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“What’s really exciting is the strength in depth in our tennis-playing community and that we have some world-class under-10 year olds coming through the system.

“We all know the challenges the Murrays faced when they had incredible talent to become the athletes they are and hopefully for those under-10 year olds, it’s going to be an easier path [with facilities like this].

“What’s lovely about this facility is it can be used by the community, by people at university and elite athletes. It just makes the sport significantly more accessible to everyone.

“Oriam supports world class athletes in every discipline and I’m delighted tennis is able to be part of it.

The National: Maree Todd and Professor Richard Williams unveiled a plaque to mark the openingMaree Todd and Professor Richard Williams unveiled a plaque to mark the opening (Image: Oriam)

“We want to make it possible for everyone to be able to feel the benefits of sports.”

Andy and Jamie’s mum Judy Murray has said in the past Scotland was guilty of not capitalising on the sporting success of the country’s tennis stars.

She has campaigned for more public and indoor courts, while Jamie has spoken of memories of being driven down to England at weekends to compete in national competitions when he was younger because there were none in Scotland.

Andy Murray has in the past branded some Scottish public tennis courts as a "shambles". 

Blane Dodds, chief executive of Tennis Scotland, said he recalled Judy Murray visiting Oriam when it opened in 2016 when she said it was a shame there were no indoor courts.

He added: “We can say now we have added indoor courts to an important building, an asset for the Scottish sporting landscape.

“There is a huge appetite for tennis in Scotland, we’ve got the highest club membership in our history and participation is growing, so we need to make sure the capacity is there.

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“If you look at the number of indoor courts per capita throughout all the tennis-playing nations in Europe, Scotland’s at the lowest end of that.

“Centres like this mean there is access all year round. We can’t deliver sport if we’re having to stop in the winter months which in some parts of Scotland still happens. So the more access to all-year round tennis, the better, to keep that momentum going.

“These courts are fantastic quality and we’ll have another four in Elgin very soon. All of this will help to grow the game.”

The National:

Efforts are also being made to bring public outdoor courts back into use, with Murray having highlighted several across Scotland that had been left to rot.

Thanks to the LTA's Park Regeneration Fund, Dodds said 82 courts had been refurbished last year and this should rise to 140 across Scotland.

He added: “This is a massive step forward in terms of grassroots level access to tennis.”

The centre has been funded jointly by Oriam, the university, the LTA, the LTA Tennis Foundation, sportscotland and Tennis Scotland through the TSIT fund.

It is already home to the Oriam Tennis Programme and the Heriot-Watt University Tennis Club, hosting all their classes, training and competitions.

Ross Campbell, executive director of Oriam said: “Since opening, we have had an overwhelmingly positive response from the tennis community and I look forward to welcoming more players to these courts."