World No 3 Andy Murray wrote at length about his emergence as a feminist icon and his motivations behind his stance on gender-pay equality in a column for the BBC on Monday. “I’ve never set out to be a spokesperson for women’s equality,” wrote Murray, before adding that it was two-time Grand Slam winner Amelie Mauresmo’s appointment as his coach in 2014 that led to a new awakening in his worldview.
“Working with Amelie was, for me, because she was the right person for the job, and not a question of her sex at all,” wrote the 30-year-old. “However, it became clear to me that she [Mauresmo] wasn’t always treated the same as men in similar jobs, and so I felt I had to speak out about that.”
The Scottish player’s unequivocal support for his female colleagues on the Tour also came as a result of him wanting to staying true to himself. As he eloquently put it, “I would find it hard to look any of the top female tennis players in the eye if I did not speak my mind.”
Murray has been continuously speaking about the gender disparity in tennis and at the Wimbledon this year in July, pointedly corrected a reporter about the last American player to have reached the quarter-finals of the prestigious tournament.
Under-estimation of sportswomen?
According to Murray, irrespective of the differences between the men’s and women’s game at its core, the sport’s demands are the same for both women and men. “There are hours spent in the gym, on court, in physio, travelling, analysing matches and opponents, talking with your team, managing your body, and of course, making plenty of sacrifices,” Murray wrote. “People often underestimate the amount of work that it takes to become a top tennis player. And that work ethic is the same whether you are a man or a woman.”
In the same manner, he added, “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.”
Murray, however, stated that despite gender inequality brewing in the sporting realm, the future was looking up across sports. “Tennis has come a long way in the past 35 years since the US Open first gave equal pay to men and women,” he wrote.
“And it’s great that all the Slams pay their male and female champions the same. No other sport is doing as much as tennis, and it’s great to be part of a sport that is leading the way. Hopefully tennis can put pressure on other sports to do the same,” he further added.
Extending his observation to other sports, Murray pinpointed a change of attitude in cricket, football and rugby that was helping bring about decisive changes in perspectives. “If more girls can see women competing at a top level, it will hopefully encourage more girls into sport across the board,” remarked Murray. He ended his column on an upbeat note, stating, “Things are moving in a positive direction and I am excited about a future in which the playing field might be level for all.”