From an early age, Inês Murta had tennis in her blood. Inspired by her older brother, she began playing at her local club in Vila Real de Santo António, a small city on the eastern fringes of the Algarve. Through a combination of talent and hard work, she followed the path of her brother (André Gaspar Murta) into the world of professional tennis. Now ranked as the Portuguese number two tennis player, Inês talks to David Lugg about the pride of playing for her country, but how she never forgets her Algarvian roots.
Congratulations on your recent national mixed doubles title. You and partner Gonçalo Falcão won the title without dropping a set. You must be very happy?
Thank you! Yes, it was a funny and enriching experience to play with someone so experienced in doubles as Falcão.
This is your second national title after you won the women’s doubles in 2020. With the mixed doubles and women’s doubles completed, does this mean we will see you win the national singles title in 2022?
I’ve already been national vice-champion twice in senior singles, so it’s certainly a title I’d like to achieve.
You play both singles and doubles tournaments on the ITF (International Tennis Federation) circuit. You have had a lot of different doubles partners over the years. How do you choose who you play with?
Yes, I actually play more often with people I have never played with than people I am used to playing with. I always try to play with people I know I will feel comfortable with on the court and preferably who have played doubles before, because it is always easier when you know each other’s way of playing. But this is often not possible because the tournaments don’t always coincide.
The majority of the tournaments that you play are in Portugal. Do the costs of travelling make it difficult to play in other countries?
Whenever we play abroad the costs of travel and accommodation is always high, so whenever I have the opportunity to play in Portugal I take advantage of it.
You played in Lagos and Loulé in 2021. It must be great to play tennis in your home region?
Yes, although it is still a bit far from my “home” in Vila Real de Santo António, it is a breath of fresh air. I am extremely proud to be Algarvian and it is a special feeling to be able to play in the best part of the country, as I always say.
You also play for the Portugal Fed Cup team. It must be a special feeling to represent your country at tennis?
It is very special for me for several reasons. Firstly, I am extremely proud to be Portuguese and having the opportunity to represent Portugal is unique. Secondly, aside from the doubles variant, tennis is an individual sport. The feeling and emotions of playing as a team and trying to do the best, not only for me but also for my colleagues, is special.
Currently, there are no Portuguese women in the top 350 ranked players of the world (singles). Have Portuguese women been given the same opportunities in tennis as men?
I think so. But in my opinion I think we need to promote women’s tennis more because the gap between boys and girls has been very large for many years. Personally speaking, almost all of my training partners have always been boys because I didn’t have any girls with whom I could train. In regional competitions, with the aggravating factor of being in the Algarve, the competitiveness was very low.
Tennis facilities in the Algarve are good, but do you think that enough is being done to attract young players to the sport?
I think that in the example of the Algarve, there should be more regional support from the local councils to promote tennis in general – and then consequently within women’s tennis. I can speak from experience that, even though I come from a very small town like Vila Real de Santo António, when I started to play tennis it was initially because of my brother’s influence. However, it was also because of the affluence that the tennis club had at the time. I remember when I started playing there were so many of us in regional competitions that the council used to provide a bus for us to travel.
What does 2022 hold for Inês Murta?
The last three years have been very complicated for me with several injuries, so my goal for 2022 is to be able to compete all year round without injuries and to gain enough competitive rhythm. I always need to keep in mind my technical and tactical goals and to keep working day by day to improve my weak points.