|Andy Murray with his female coach Amélie Mauresmo|
photo cr. Eurosport
Admittedly I'm not a tennis fan, I don't have anything against it, just never got into it - even the Slams and Olympics. I have however admired various tennis players - men & women - throughout the years. I mean come on - you have to love John McEnroe - but I also was a fan of Björn Borg and of course Billie Jean King, and the Williams sisters but also Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. Tennis is in a sort of golden age with the Williams sisters and Novak Djokovic, and the icons Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. With Nadal and Federer on people's minds currently, one name that I think gets overlooked - at least among non-tennis fans - is Andy Murray. I knew he was a great player, not sure where he ranks 'all-time' but seems he is arguably one of the best, but regardless of his worth as a player, I am learning he is also a great man.
Though Serena Williams dominates her sport as do Nadal & Federer, maybe moreso without a direct competitor, and could well be the best tennis player ever (disregarding the whole gender thing), and women's tennis in general gets plenty of attention, they still fall far below men in pay. Beyond that they still, this past year unfortunately frequently, are treated with misogyny. There were numerous instances - which you can read in the Elle article linked above so I won't get into them here. Let's just say some ridiculous statements and treatment were done to women. But one male player at least isn't having any of it, and he's not afraid to speak up about it: Andy Murray.
The best part is that it seems to be him just being him, naturally responding and speaking up - not having to force it or seem as if he's reaching or trying to hard to be a male 'feminist'. And that is getting him noticed by the female players and women in general. In the Elle article, the incomparable Billie Jean King says "Andy's been great, and without even realizing it, probably." Meanwhile, in the NPR story, the Elle story writer Lizzy Goodman talks about how his reactions, the way he almost rolls his eyes at the fact he even needs to be in the conversation, are as powerful as the words.
Andy is the only top male player to have hired a female coach, former top player Amélie Mauresmo, but then he has experience with it - his mother Judy is a tennis coach and he grew up being coached by her before he would move onto male coaches as a pro only to return to a female coach again.
One of my favorite quotes from Murray is on the subject of equal pay. Besides supporting it obviously, he goes further to say "what I just don't get is why it wouldn't be something that tennis players are proud of, like, to be the only sport [where the male and female game and earnings] are even comparable." The fact that it could and should be something to be proud of, not just not fight against, shows its really his opinion that it should happen. Another great quote refers to the coaching aspect - of men dominating as coaches of both men and women. "She's a woman, so she can't understand the men's game," he says of female coaches in general. "But then how can a man understand the women's game?" Meaning, if its okay for a man to coach a woman - why not vice versa? His experience with having to stand up for his coach gave him the impetus to do it in general for women in tennis.
I love how Goodman talks about his approach, if it can even be called one, as 'dudish' or 'bro' like, so nonchalant and natural that it has more power because of it.
In a perfect world we wouldn't need someone like Murray, by his own account not needing a 'feminist', but we do, and so I am happy that there is. Keep up the fight Andy Murray.