Andy Murray: Women praise tennis star for role in fighting sexism

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Coach Amelie Mauresmo and Judy Murray
Coach Amelie Mauresmo, and Judy Murray have been big influences on Andy Murray

Following Andy Murray’s announcement that he will retire this year, many prominent women – inside and outside of tennis – have praised him for taking a leading role in fighting sexism.

From calling out journalists, to becoming one of the first leading men’s tennis players to employ a female coach, he has hit the headlines on numerous occasions.

US tennis legend Billie Jean King tweeted: “Your voice for equality will inspire future generations.”

Labour MP Jess Phillips summed it up in her tweet: “Great player, normal bloke, and best of all casual feminist.”

What made him speak out?

The Scot raised eyebrows when he appointed a woman, Amelie Mauresmo, as his coach in 2014.

It was a move that resulted in sexist comments from many quarters, including fellow players, and Murray says it turned him into an outspoken feminist.

“Working with Amelie was, for me, because she was the right person for the job, and not a question of her sex at all,” he wrote in a BBC column.

“However, it became clear to me that she wasn’t always treated the same as men in similar jobs, and so I felt I had to speak out about that.”

Murray said he had never set out to be a spokesperson for women’s equality.

But he felt Mauresmo faced unfair criticism for his losses – something that his previous males coaches hadn’t experienced.

In a column for French newspaper L’Equipe, he wrote: “Have I become a feminist? Well, if being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man then yes, I suppose I have.”

How else has he stood up for women?

The 31-year-old has spoken candidly about female tennis players deserving to get equal prize money, saying they sacrifice as much as men.

“Anyone who has spent any time with any of the top women will know that they make those same sacrifices and are as determined and committed to winning as any of the top men on the tour,” he said.

He also joined Venus Williams in calling for more women’s matches on Wimbledon’s Centre Court – after critics complained that a higher number of men’s matches were being chosen for the show courts.

“I think ideally you would have two men’s and two women’s [matches] on Centre,” he said.

And the BBC website felt Murray’s wrath when it failed to give Katarina Johnson-Thompson a prominent placing following her gold in the pentathlon at the European World Indoor Championships.

He has also challenged journalists who have forgotten the achievements of female tennis players.

When praised by BBC presenter John Inverdale for becoming the first person to win two Olympic gold medals for tennis in 2016, Murray replied: “Venus and Serena [Williams] have won four each.”

He was at it again the following year at Wimbledon, when he interrupted a reporter in his press conference after losing to American Sam Querrey.

The journalist was midway through asking a question, saying to Murray: “Sam is the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009…” to which Murray said: “Male player.”

Serena Williams, one of the US players whose achievements had been ignored by the journalist, said his response was one of the reasons he was “loved” by the female players.

She told ESPN at the time: “I don’t think there’s a woman player – and there really shouldn’t be a female athlete – that is not totally supportive of Andy Murray.

“He has spoken up for women’s issues and women’s rights, especially in tennis, forever and he does it again.”

British number one Johanna Konta said there had been many examples of when Murray had stood up for women’s tennis – and women in general.

“I think he’s grown up with a really strong female role model with his mum and now his wife is also a strong character, so he is surrounded by great, strong women,” she said.

“He has put that through in the way he has voiced his opinions and the way he has tackled some questions and issues that have arisen, and I think everybody has always been very appreciative of him.”

Former US Open champion Samantha Stosur also said he had been a “massive advocate” for women’s tennis.

She said: “I know in the locker room whenever we hear him stick up for us, we’re like, ‘Yeah, go Andy!'”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46836509

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