Week 86 (23 - 29 May 2015)
Throughout his career, British tennis player Andy Murray has received praise and criticism in almost equal measure. Even when he won the Wimbledon Championships in 2013 – the most longed-for sporting victory in Britain other than football’s World Cup – there were still sniping voices that he was too boring, or too tearful, or even too Scottish. This week it was the turn of highly-justified praise for his consistent support of women’s tennis.
Murray has long been a standard bearer for women’s tennis, helping to challenge those – including other professional male tennis players – who dismiss it as a lesser version of the men’s game.
The British No. 1 closely follows the women’s game and regularly takes to Twitter to air his views on the quality and variety of play on the female circuit.
But undoubtedly his biggest statement of support for the women’s game came last year when he appointed Amélie Mauresmo, the French former world No. 1, as his coach. In doing so, Murray became the first elite male player in history to appoint a female coach who is not a family member.
The appointment did raise eyebrows from some corners of the men’s game but was outweighed by the support from the women’s game. Not that Murray hired Mauresmo as a gesture of support for female tennis - far from it. He saw Mauresmo as the best person for the job.
This week, as his good form on clay courts continued at the French Open, Murray received a second wave of good will in the form of a USA Today article reporting numerous voices in the women’s game speaking out in support of Murray’s “pro-woman” stance.
World No. 1 Serena Williams said: “He's always watching women's tennis. He watches more than I do and makes me feel bad. I'm like, gosh. I think that's inspiring. He really is pro-woman.”
Whilst Australian player Casey Dellacqua added: "He understands and appreciates women. He pushes for equality and he doesn't separate men and women at all. I really respect that."
By rising above convention to appoint a female coach, Murray has opened the door to improved opportunities for women – and his measured comments about Mauresmo ensure this pioneering relationship stays in the spotlight for tennis reasons.
After this week’s victory over Joao Sousa, Murray commented: “We started officially [working together] after Wimbledon last year when I had been through a tough period and was coming back from back surgery and had dropped out of world’s top 10.
“She was an excellent player but more importantly, her game style had a lot of variety – that is something I try to do too.
“And she is a very nice person, which is also important. So, so far so good.”
No exaggeration, not too much hyperbole. That’s Andy Murray.