He stands at 4’11” and is less than 80 pounds soaking wet. But don’t be fooled by his diminutive stature. Jean Phillipe Murray is a pint sized powerhouse. At 14, Murray has already started leaving his mark on the tennis world. The form three student at St Mary’s College is making a name for himself.
This year alone, he has already captured the Barbados Junior International singles title and Trinidad International doubles crown. Murray had participated in both tournaments before, even making last year’s doubles final in Trinidad. So, what finally got him over the proverbial hump?
“My training methods have become more intense because I am starting to realize that I need to build myself to become a better player,” he explained.
Murray started playing tennis as a student at the Montessori Center in Rodney Heights, as part of their primary school program. It started as a fun diversion, but some local coaches spotted raw talent in the Gros-Islet resident, and encouraged him to take the sport more seriously. Murray has been coached by some of the islands best including Stephen Marcelle, Vernon Lewis, and is now under the watchful eye of Sirsean Arlain, who is impressed by his student’s cerebral nature.
“Very quiet demeanor off the court, but on the court he is a little beast.” Arlain expounded, “He doesn’t like to lose so no matter who, no matter what he’ll give it his best shot and go at anybody on the other side of the net.”
His father, Louis Murray, echoed the sentiment. “He’s very passionate about his tennis, very competitive, he likes to do well. He likes to win like every other athlete.”
The youngest of three children, Murray balances a packed schedule, which includes training sessions, workouts, and a rigorous academic load. In his down time, he is an avid Chelsea FC supporter and counts Fifa and Top Spin among his favourite video games. The multi-talented dynamo also runs long distance track, plays cricket, football, and basketball. And in an obvious cross-over, he has claimed victory in three different age groups at the Independence Classic Table Tennis Tournament.
He credits his parents for being supportive of his pursuits and says he is grateful that they have worked so hard to fund his dream. But, when it comes to role models, it’s another Murray that the teenager singled out: Scottish tennis star Andy Murray. The reason is simple.
“He’s a well-rounded player just like me.”
There are tournaments in August on the island, as well as in St Vincent and Tobago, which Murray is hoping participate in. This summer, he plans to hit the courts every day to fine tune his already impressive skill set; specifically one area of concern.
“I am interested in improving my serve. I’m just looking at getting more power on it, more spin, and getting the grip right,” he said.
According to Arlain, the youngster is taking the right approach, especially now that he is entering the upper echelons of competition.
“Once you win an ITF (International Tennis Federation) tournament, no matter what age group it sort of puts the rest of the islands and region on alert. He’s definitely got a target on his back now. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles it. He’s no longer the hunter, he’s the hunted.”
Murray welcomes the added pressure and recalled some words of wisdom he received at a camp in Florida this past December.
“Tennis is not a game of size or height, but of perseverance and hard work.”