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Andy Murray’s nemesis Gavin Rumgay looks for fame as paddler

Soon after humbling Andy Murray five times – as his website proclaims - Gavin Rumgay was lured away to play table tennis.

Written by Shahid Judge | Surat | Updated: December 21, 2015 11:44:03 am
Rumgay Scotland’s Gavin Rumgay beat Andy Murray five times as a junior in tennis. (Express Photo)

A certain Andy Murray might have been quite relieved when Gavin Rumgay decided to shift out of playing lawn tennis. After all, the current world number two could never get the better of his fellow Scotsman when they played each other at the junior level. In fact, Rumgay ruled the court in their early teenaged years, beating Murray twice to win the Junior Scottish national championship. Yet Rumgay asserts there was never a bitter rivalry between the two. “We were in the same team for three years. I kept beating him, but we were also doubles partners. So we had to be good friends,” he says. “The only rivalry was when we went to play in England. The English-Scottish history you can say,” he adds, smiling.

Soon after humbling Murray five times – as his website proclaims – Rumgay was lured away to play table tennis, a game he was equally proficient in, by sponsors who offered to fund him if he took up the sport professionally. Thus began his journey of dominance on the local circuit that saw him become the top Scottish player.

That, of course, was long before the 31-year-old struck up a minor controversy at the ongoing 20th Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships at the Pandit Dindayal Upadhyay Stadium iAndy Murray, Gavin Rumgay, Gavin Rumgay table tennis, Rumgay scotland, Indian express, sports newsn Surat. Just last year, at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Rumgay performed an instinctive celebration that soon became an internet rage. It even got a name – the ‘Weegie Wedgie,’ attributed to the fact that the Perth resident performed the move in Glasgow where the slang for locals is ‘Glaswegians.’ The move itself includes Rumgay pulling up his shorts to the point that his underpants were visible. It made him an instant hit with the fans.

In Surat however, a victory in a team match against Sri Lanka prompted him to perform the same salutation. But along with the fans’ fascination, he also captured the wrath of the umpires. “I got scolded! It seems that it’s considered disrespectful here, but everybody enjoys it when I do it in Europe,” he asserts.

The singular move though portrays a certain feature in his playing-style. Comical expressions generated after each point, won or lost, coupled with unpredictable and ever-innovative stroke-play often draws crowds towards the table the 10-time Scottish champion is playing on. “When I’m in Britain especially, people try and come to watch me play,” he mentions. It’s an aspect he portrayed back in the previous edition of the event, held in New Delhi in 2013 as well, when he was a part of the first ever Scottish team to win a Commonwealth Championship medal – a bronze on that occasion.

Even in his recent match against the Sri Lankans, Rumgay’s beaten opponent couldn’t resist smiling at the Scot’s celebration. “I’ve started wearing a pair of inners under my normal playing shorts. That way if I’m tempted to do that celebration, the umpires can’t get after me,” he explains. He did pull his shorts up again nonetheless, when he beat India’s Sudhanshu Grover to reach the men’s quarterfinals – only to lose at that stage to Soumyajit Ghosh later on Sunday.

The trademark celebration, along with the ginger-haired player has become a rarity on the professional circuit off late. Instead he’s steadily increased his focus on running racquet sports clinics – lawn tennis, table tennis and badminton – in the London area. His clients include children and celebrities and famous personalities. “I’ve got quite a few big clients, some from Russia. They’re very important people, and a few of them are celebrities who don’t want to be named,” he says. “One of them is Tom Odele, a famous singer in London. He wouldn’t mind being named in public. The rest would have a problem,” he adds lightly.

Coaching in three different racquet sports hasn’t been much of a struggle for him. Especially since he was an international player at the junior level in all three. In fact, both his parents were former badminton professionals, predictably writing the script for him to take up a racquet sport. “They actually wanted me to play tennis. So they were a bit disappointed for a few weeks when I went into table tennis,” he recalls.

While his dedication to the clinics and cut in the government budget for funding players keep him out of playing as often as he’d like, he continues to dominate the Scottish nationals. So much so that the veteran has made it clear that he will only consider retiring once he breaks Euan Walker’s record of 12 Scottish national championships. “I’ve got 10 so far. If I win another few in as many years I’ll have crossed it. But then I’ll be just 33-34, so I probably will still stay a bit longer,” he asserts.

Meanwhile, he is preparing for a possible Christmas reunion with Murray. Rumgay has also entered the field of entrepreneurship, launching his own line of table tennis bats – the Rumgay Reactor. Two such models were sent over to Murray and his brother who often play the table-based sport. “It’s a sort of an invitation and a challenge at table tennis,” he adds, laughing.

Record haul for India

The Indian contingent has guaranteed a championship record of 16 medals for the host nation at the Surat held Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships. The pairs of G Sathiyan and Ankita Das, Soumyajit Ghosh and Mouma Das, and Anthony Amalraj and Shamini Kumaresan won the gold, silver and bronze medals respectively in the mixed doubles event on Sunday. The three medals were added to the previous tally the gold, won by the men in the team championship, and silver for the women’s team event on Friday.

Since a bronze medal is granted even to the losing semi-finalists, four medals will be won from the men’s doubles as the last four are Indian pairs. The women’s doubles has two pairs in the final four. Meanwhile in the single’s category, three men and two women players have made it to the semi-finals of their respective events, all of which will take place on Monday.

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