IT may be Andy Murray who is grabbing most of the spotlight at the moment due to his impressive resurgence, but it is his elder brother, Jamie, who was one of the primary inspirations for Ali Collins’ recent career change of direction.
Throughout her teenage years, Collins established herself as one of the most promising talents in British tennis, becoming a regular at the junior grand slams.
As she hit her twenties a move to Spain followed in an attempt to move her career onto the next level.
However, slowly but surely, she began to fall out of love with the sport that she had dedicated most of her life to.
So strong were her feelings, she even seriously considered hanging up her racket for good.
However, in contrast to most athletes, lockdown last year was welcomed by Collins. It gave her a welcome break from the constant treadmill that is the tennis tour and allowed her the opportunity to take a step back and assess where she wanted her career to go.
The answer she came up with was not to quit the sport she had long committed to, but instead make a switch from focusing her efforts from singles to doubles, a path that Jamie Murray has shown is eminently possible, and can lead to a hugely successful – and enjoyable – career.
“When the pandemic hit, I was still living in Spain and I was going through a pretty tough time. I wasn’t enjoying playing singles and I was even questioning if this was what I wanted to do.
“I was pretty miserable, to be honest,” the 23-year-old says.
“During lockdown though, I had a lot of time to do some self-reflection – I’ve committed my whole life to tennis and I realised I didn’t want to give it up, I wanted to keep fighting and so I thought about what I could do to start enjoying it again.
“I’d always played doubles but mainly just for fun when I was younger. It was always the game that I’d enjoyed the most though and it was during lockdown the idea of turning to doubles came about.”
Collins had the advantage of being able to turn to someone whose advice was invaluable; Judy Murray.
Having been born and brought up in the Murrays hometown of Dunblane, Collins has long been able to call Murray a mentor, turning to her for advice or help whenever it was required.
And having already guided a son down the path of a doubles career, Murray is well-versed in what is required to make it on the doubles tour and Collins admits being able to talk through her change of direction with someone of the experience of Murray was priceless.
“It ‘s so helpful having Judy to speak to and she gives me so much advice with the big decisions I need to make – things like my coach, my training environment and anything else I need guidance with,” Collins says.
“Also, having seen Jamie have such a successful career in doubles really opened my eyes to the opportunity of a switch.
“Doubles really suits my game and my personality but I’d never really committed to that route before. Traditionally, doubles players were looked down on a little bit compared to singles players but I really think that’s changed massively in recent years.
“In Britain, there’s Jamie, as well as Joe Salisbury, who have made really good careers for themselves in doubles and they’ve shown what’s possible.”
It remains early days for Collins in her doubles journey, but the early signs are encouraging.
This summer alone, she has reached two semi-finals and a final of ITF events, all with foreign partners, but already she has one eye on next season and, she hopes, establishing herself as one of Britain’s leading players.
“Around December, I’ll try to wind down a little bit and then get ready for a good pre-season,” she says.
“I want to really work on things in the off-season and then next year, I want to get a lot of matches under my belt – I’ve not had a full season for a good few years so it’d be good to get that.
“The whole training aspect for doubles really suits my game. It’s very explosive and quick and is all about reactions and that’s what I enjoy doing and it’s made me a better player.
“The big difference for me is that I’m back enjoying the sport again –
concentrating on doubles has been a big change but I’ve really enjoyed and it’s definitely been the right decision for me.”